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Winner Grand Prix Litldraire Carafes 

Translated by 


Preface by 



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Winner Grand Prix Litt6raire des CaraTbes 

Translated from the French by 

Preface by C. L. R. JAMES 

P.O. Box 621 
New York, N.Y. 10027 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Fouchard, Jean, 1912- 
The Haitian Maroons, 

Includes bibliographical references and index, 

1, Slavery—Dominican Republic’—Fugitive slaves, 2. Slavery—Haiti— 
Fugitive slaves, 3. Maroons—Dominican Republic* 4* Maroons—Haiti 

I* Title. 

HT1081.F6813 306\3 80-65620 

ISBN 0-914110-11-X AACR2 

Originally published in France under the title Les Marrons de fa Liberty 

© UEcole S.A.R.L. Paris 1972 
English translation © 1981 by A. Faulkner Watts 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in 
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, 
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written 
permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law* 

Book Design by Laurence Pierce 

Manufactured in the United States of America by 
Theo * Gam Ltd Brooklyn, N,Y* 


THE HAITIAN MAROONS takes an automatic and assured place among 
the historical masterpieces of the age. Historical masterpiece in one of the 
precious intellectual spheres and specialties of Western Civilization? Yes* 
What gaps arc filled? What idols overthrown before such a claim can be com¬ 
pletely accepted? 

The history must definitely repudiate a hitherto accepted historical fact and 
substitute a new historical conception * Mr. Fouchard establishes that the Hai¬ 
tian nation, the result of the only successful slave revolt in history, was 
formed, organized and maintained by the Maroons, the slaves who had run 
away from the slave society organized by the Metropolitan forces and made a 
place for themselves in the inaccessible hills. Hitherto they had been con¬ 
sidered merely as accessories, more or less important to the national move¬ 
ment against slavery and for independence* The author establishes that the 
other participants in the revolt are the accessories; without the Maroons 
there could have been no successful foundation of a new state, perhaps not 
even a full-blooded revolution* 

This rejection of the old view and the establishment of a new is achieved 
not by new investigation or reorganization of familiar material; the historical 
terrain is re-examined and entirely new material is made the foundation of a 
new conclusion * As one who has done serious research in this field, and is 
also aware of the splendid work done by the Haitian historians, the material 
on which Mr* Fouchard bases his thesis comes as a revelation. He is aware 
of the work of past historians and researchers. But his main source, as he 
tells on the very first page, are the newspapers of San Domingo. From the 
information therein he makes unexpected and exhilarating use of the slaves 
who are ofTercd for sale, and the slaves who have fled from their masters, 
that is to say, the Maroons* 

Mr* Fouchard docs not only accumulate facts or organize them according 
to a method. The facts and the ideas which have stimulated him dictate the 
very structure of the book. When a historian is suffused with the idea that he 
has something new and important to communicate, something historically 
new, it is immediately obvious in the structure of his book, as it is here. Mr* 
Fouchard participates in the contemporaneity of the term “structure,” a highly 
significant philosophical term today. 

From his opening chapter descriptions of the Maroons Mr. Fouchard 
moves to a critical examination of the “classic” causes of what I will call 

maroonage , Building to a logical and dramatic conclusion he repudiates the 
causes which wc have grown accustomed to call “classic.* 1 The slaves, he 
demonstrates, sought liberty* 

But the author is not satisfied with that. Maroons, slavery, oppression, 
wc know today are matters of relation, the relation between one section of 
the population and another. So next Mr. Fouchard proceeds to the examina¬ 
tion of these relations at close hand. 

The whole procedure is recognized as an example and a development of 
new processes of history writing which are taking place all over the civilized 
world. In Richard Wright’s Black Boy he tells the story of how his grand¬ 
father had been deprived of his pension as a veteran of the Civil War. 

For decades a long correspondence took place between Grandpa and the 
War Department; in letter after letter Grandpa would recount events and 
conversations , * he would name persons tong dead, citing their ages and 
descriptions, reconstructing battles in which he hud fought, naming towns, 
rivers, creeks, roads, cities, villages, citing the names and numbers of regi¬ 
ments and companies with which he had fought , . . and send it all to the 
War Department in Washington, 

The details that Grandpa writes, repeated and extended in his letters, 
those details are the grounding of contemporary history. It is possible that 
there are many such memories and even material passed on from generation 
to generation among the great masses of black people everywhere, and espe¬ 
cially those in the Caribbean and the United States today. Often this material 
can illuminate and foster recognition of historical significance in passages 
often passed over casually as merely interesting. 

From the memoirs of a man of our own generation we can go back to a 
famous history of the Caribbean written by Richard Ligon in London, 1653; 
A True and Exact History of The Island of Barbados , 1647-1650 * 

Their sufferings being grown to a great height, and their daily complaining 
to one another (of the intolerable burdens they laboured under) being spread 
throughout the Hand: at the last, some amongst them, whose spirits were 
not able to endure such slavery, resolved to break through It, or die in the 
act; and conspired with some others whose sufferings were equal] . * , resolved 
to draw as many of the discontented party into the plot, as possibly they 
could; and those of this perswasion were the greatest number in the Hand, So 
that a day was appointed to fall upon their Masters, and cut all their throats 
, * * to make themselves not only freemen, but Masters of the Hand. And so 
closely was this plot carried, as no discovery was made till the day before 
they were to put it in act: And then one of them . , * revealed this long 
plotted conspiracy; and by this timely advertisement the Masters were saved. 
Justice Hethcrsall * * * by examination, found out the greatest part of them; 
whereof eighteen of the principal men * * . and they the first leaders and con¬ 
trivers of the plot, were put to death for example to the rest. 

And the reason why they made examptcs of so many, was, they found these 
so haughty in the resolutions, and so incorrigible, as they were like enough 
to become actors in a second plot; and so they thought to secure them; and 
for the rest, to have a special eye over them. 

After reading Fouchard such passages are not passed by. They cry out for in¬ 
tegration into a historical context. 

The expansion of the historical method is recognized not only as of im¬ 
portance to history and historical writing. It can be, and will be, increasingly 
seen as an expansion of the knowledge of, and insight into r the great majority 
of human beings . Note, not about the literary and historical process in gen¬ 
eral, but about their integral role in historical development and our knowledge 
of the world, its past, its present, and its future. 

For some years now, a few historians have recognized that one only be¬ 
gins to write history when one writes about the great untutored mass of the 
population. Albert Soboul, for one, has written a history of the sansculottes, 
the rank and file of the French cities who above all were the creators of the 
great French revolution. In an issue of the New York Review of Books (June 
12, 1975) Geoffrey Barraclough, a distinguished professor and organizer of 
historical writing and writers, once more repeated a conclusion which he has 
been advocating for years. One cannot “explain National Socialism in terms 
of Hitler alone,” he says, adding that “he is not worth all the attention his¬ 
torians have paid Him ” It is Mr. Barraclough’s thesis that to understand the 
extraordinary phenomenon of Hitler’s Germany one has to examine and pay 
the utmost attention to the great mass of the population and not to Hitler 
himself, the embodiment of the conventional conception of “the leader/’ nor 
to any of the leaders. Among American historians, the most striking in this 
regard is Professor George P. Rawiek, His study of slavery, The American 
Slave: A Composite Autobiography: From Sundown to Sunup t The Making of 
the Black Community focuses attention upon the slaves when they have left 
the fields and are living their own private fives. 

These writers arc sufficient to show the universal peak of historical writing 
today which merely carries to the ultimate incidental tendencies long present 
in the historical writing of the 19th century. It is obvious that this work of 
Mr. Fouchard adds distinction to that distinguished company. 

Any great revolution in historical thought has as its origin a revolutionary 
recognition of the concrete events, hitherto unsuspected, in the historical con¬ 
catenation of the epoch in which the writer lives. This is a book not only for 
us in the Caribbean and the diaspora. It will become a sine qua non of the 
Third World and will take its place among the latest elucidations of historical 
method in Western civilization, suitable to the twentieth century (and be¬ 
yond). The most advanced of Western historians will recognize an effective 
addition to their creative works. 

■—C L* R, Jambs 



c j» A 'I O 

/o/ f \ Samedi io. Aval 1704 . 

_ _. . - 



V P.A I X.* 

Piln d' un cTcUihi « 1 1 • « » * * 1 3 5 Q^ eSi 

JW* fr UrckzrJtfct Je U Colonic* ■ 

* Av PoRT-AU-PRIKCE, lc TO de: C Cf 
}nok, Sacrc bUnc,, premiere quality 66 h 
70 1 . fecorde, ^4 a 60 1 . tromtaie, 50 a 
54 1 , bail 1 38 h 40 L LvJigb bleu, it L a 
12 I, id f. cuivre, 9 i« 10 f. a K> I, Cafi 
nouveau, 16 a it C vieicr* 13 i 14, & 
Coton. 175 k lfitflivre*. 

Frix it: ^AUrtHanJifis io frdftft. 

Av Port^au-PiuKcs,* le 10 de ce 
fnois r -Vin vbuxrijo i iSjyl* nouveau, 90 
h nob Farinc dc Moiflac, 66 a 70 L com¬ 
mune, jo L Becuf fak, 60 a 70 )* le Laril. 
Petit-tale, 27 k 30 1. Tan ere, Bcurre, to a 
35 f. k livie. Huik, 36 L le pankr* iuvon, 
iS 4 30 b k caifle. 

CW* ^ 

Av PoiT-AU-PniMCt, Sucre Mane, 
30 a 1 x deniers. brut, to i 12 den. Indigo, 
$0 den. Cafe 10 a 12 d. Colon, 3 6 den* 

J/ £ G It £ S M A R R Q H X. 

Au P et i t- G 0 a v e , To 2 ? Fe vrkr der¬ 
nier, eft entre 4 k Gcolc, un Mulitre, nom- 
Picrrt, Cura^aolien, fans dtampc, &g t dc 
24 ans, ttUle dc 5 pieds l a % pouces, fe 
difant appartenir a M* Do none , Gr e flier 4 

pi fur le fern droit TARDIEU, au-defTnuf 
G»AN5E, Je difant appanenir a M. 2'arActt s 
k h Grando-Anfc* 

Au Pout-au-Prince, le 2 do ce motfl 
jPatinuit > Mandtngue ct a in pc A U T U RO, a u-* 
deficits JACMEL, auttnt (Juofl a pu le dif« 
tinguer, ne pouvant dire Ion nom r*i cclui 

Sac : Ic 6 , Jcudi , Barnbara, ctampe DOik 
RJEAU, au-JeiTous P.P, fe difant appat ten it 
4 M* BvlJJbn : Ic 7 1 Blt+vtnu $ Congo, £:aiu« 
pi illiAblemeht, ayaru une ciiaine au couJ 
fe clifam appaneuir a h nommcc M«rit+ 
Cl Arc Ptt/juicr* u la Chiirfconniiret 

A" I 'M A U X' £ P* A V £ S. 

Au PonT-Au-PifiifCE, Ie 3 dccc mnlsf 
il a etc conduit h Ja Gcole, un Chavai (6\x% 
poil'bnm dumj^c CDL f les deux dcnir&r&i 
Icttres - ertrekcdcs 4 , ikfK fur 1 ■ dos; 
une Eourri-cjue feus poll bai-bJanc, ^ ram pee 
tt 5 ayant urf b?,t; 6c un Chcval Ions poit 
rouan, £tampi AN, ayant les pieds b!ar.cs 1 
le 7 s ime Bourrique fouspoil fouris, ftamptc 
au couMGP ; Ccunt Bourrique fous poll j*ris 9 
erampee illiftbl ’mcnt : le 8 , une Buurnque 
fous p-Kail gris tomiTc illifibicineiit, ayant 
polls brun fur lc dos + 


Vo C At ET In ST RV M E tf T A £2 

On donnera Dimanche n AvnI, ax Unit 
fitc iu -Skur XfwanSt Pcufoaowc 


Du Mcrcredi it Aout ijgj* 

Arrives de Navires au Cap* 

Le $ dc cc mok, Ai He Bordeaux, 

Cap- Ifard , parti le premier juillet s le S , la 
Trine cfft^Ncirt He Nantes, Cap- Mallet, ve¬ 
na nr de I a C6tc*d'Ang&le, parti leinovembre 
17S3 j Us Trri^t-CatuonsAc h Rochelle, Op. 
Peromie, venant dcla Coted’AngQlc, parti Jc 
11 feptembre 1783; 6f U Fan Can de Mar faille, 
Cap* Madou, venant deMalaga, parti le ij 
fevrier 17S4. 

Depart de Navires du Cap- 
Lc 4 *e cemois, £Hwnmc-Irtjlruic , Cap, 
Barbel, pour le Havre i le 6 , U Confcil dt 
FDndrts , Cap. Ddirnis, pour Bordeaux 5 le 
yja Conception, Cap^Sibilly, pourMarfcille; 
& la MtirU-fonfiancc , Cap, Vitord, pour Jc 

Tarip dt; poids du Pai*u 
Pain d'un efcalin 24 oncer. 


da Fort-Dauphin , eft entree a h Geole le 
du mois dernier, Germaine, Mulatreffe, 
creo’e de Caracole , ageC d’errvirem iS ans, 
fans e ta rope, au fi-eur Larrieu au Cap, arretee 
en VH!e; le premier dc cc mois, un Negre 
npuveau', age dfanviron 20 am, faille de $ 
deds, etampe fur le fein gauche ESL, na- 
mij Ibo, arreie a Maribaroux; fc 4, Jofeph, 
wreoie KolJandois, fe difant libre, gros 3c 
cplet , fins.mmpe apparent , tailJe dt j* 
i ayant des brulures fur k$ epa tiles Be 
Jrcjbue t/ur le corps , an etc au Trou ; Julie , 
-/cole, dgcedenvtton 2f am „ faille dc cinq 
>ieds qLelqur, ponces, cramp if e illifSblcmcnt 
ur ica ' 

■in droit DE LANGE,.aufieurDeknge, & 
uvant Jc emificat dc cclui par qui die a Cti 
ifPP^rtcnant enpropre Hi Darpe 
“ , c an Port^e-l^ak.^w&ic i 

da Cap, le 16 du tnois dernier, Francois, 
Creole, etampe fur le fein gauche N, LE- 
JEUNE, a M, Lejeune au Cap an etc cn 
Villc; Jc 1 dc cc mois, i Negres nouveaux, 
trampfs furlefcindroicTYG, taiilede y pieds 
i ponces, I’linarrctc i Limonade, & Tan ere i 
la Petitc-Aufc j 1c ; , LcvcilU'jConco, etam- 
P_e fur Jc fein droit J. L. N. ANETli, age 
d'environ aS ans, taillc dc r pieds 4pouces, 
a dir appmenir a M. Bifcave , arrccc a 
Haifancc ; le 4, Japhet, Creole, etimpd fur 
le fein droit COLET, a M. Faurcs au Gtos- 
Mornc, aratca la Grand'Riviere j le f , un 
Negre nouveau , Congo , etimpe fur Ic frill 
droit DIDEROT agrj d'en viron rS ans , 
moyenne uille > arrcteati I Lut-du-Trou ; 1 c 
mvme jour , Rofettc , Creole , fans dtmipc 
apparenre,ageed'environ loans,petite taillc, 
a M, Molines au Cap , arretee k h Ft tire- 
Anfc ; 1c nicme jour, Hofie Trey , Negre- 
Efpamiol,fanserampe ppparente, age dVnvi- 
ron 15 ans, raille de j pieds , qui fe dir libre 
de Porto-Cavaifio , arrece a la Fcflette , Jc 7 , 
Solaia, Congo, fansdrampe lifible, ay ant un¬ 
collier defer avec une brtinche, age denvitoa 
xo ans, a M. Guay , arrete a Limonadc. 

A K I M A U X E P A V E S, 

# ^ Cdp $ le 27 du mois dernier,,un Ane en- 
tier poll fouris, ayant au col une trampe ilii- 
fible, arrerc an Limbe s lc S mois, un 
jeunc poulin crampc fur la cuiffe du montotr 
N,arrctcibPctite-Anfc ; Ic 9, un Cbeval 
poll biun , ayant fjr U cui0e du montoir une 
etampe cfpagnole fir une petirc ctoilc fu: Ic 
front, arrctc a ta Pence*Aufc. 

ktat tUs Ft r tQtis Ipavcs qui dvivtfit lire vend ns 
ti ht Ihtrrc du Sittft Royal du Fort-Dauphin m 
It j all ohrt pt 0 eft a in 

Jcan-l-ouis, Mulatre, Indicn dc nation ^ 
ttampc fur !c fein droit PETIT, fc uiGntap- 
partemr au fieur Caffagnc, arruc a Guana- 

UnNegrenouveaUj nation Bamb^ra, tallfc 
dc Jgicds zpguccs^ iiljubJcment £ht 


Preface .........*...... v 

Contents ......*....»......... xi 

Translator's Notes .................. xiii 



1 Through Colonial Eyes ................... 15 

2 The Uprooting ...................,. 19 

3 The Harsh Conditions of Labor ......—..........—. 3! 

4 The Slave Diet .. 35 

5 Clothing . 41 

6 Housing and Hygiene .............» 51 

7 Cruelty of the Masters . 59 



1 National Origins ........ 113 

2 Slave Trade to Saint-Domingue from 1764 to 1793 _ 123 

3 Branding .................. 145 

4 National Markings ...................... 151 

5 Special Characteristics ............. 155 

6 Physiological Condition of the Maroons .. 161 

7 Height, Age, Sex .............. 177 

8 Maroon Names . 181 


1 Names of Colonial Whites ..... 195 

2 Freedmen's Names .. 205 

3 Inquiry on the Frcedmen's Class ."»-—*”**-**'***'.** M 2uy 

4 Status and Occupation of the Proprietors ..*■"**■■" 235 


1 Different Forms of Marronage ..... 247 

2 How and With Whom Maroons Ran Away . 259 

3 Maroon Hiding Places; Sanctuaries; Asylums . 271 

4 Which Slaves Took Flight .... 279 



Index . 322 


For a number of reasons certain words which appear frequently will not always 
be spelled the same w-ay. For example, we have almost always honored the capitali¬ 
zation, or the absence of it, and the punctuation of the historical documents, 
observing also the lack of internal consistency exhibited in both these matters. 
Within the author's own text we have differentiated between the creole Frenchman 
and Creole ; the language, between the individual Maroon and the act, to go maroon . 
As for the phenomenon marronage, we have simply and boldly borrowed it from 
the French as is, without italics or other special treatment. 

In the chapter on Names of the Colonists the listing of names has been abridged. 


The Running Heads on pages 251 and 255 should read “Different Forms 
of Matron age'" instead of “Different Forms of Marriage* 


FROM THE BEGINNING to the end of its thirty-year existence, the Saint- 
Domingue press provides an extraordinarily rich and varied documentation 
for the history of the most important of all French colonies. More than any 
contemporary witness of the era, these yellowed journals permit reexamina¬ 
tion of daily life in Saint-Domingue during the years preceding and following 
the revolution. Their abundant and varied references touch upon every aspect 
of colonial affairs: the theater, literary and scientific life, the wealth of landed 
estates, the flow of merchandise and commodities, ship movements, and slave 
ship arrivals. Politics, legislation, education, mcteorologic observations, the 
slave and marronage; important commercial and population statistics, arrivals 
and departure of colonists, rumors from Europe and mainland America, food, 
recreation, the progress of plantations and manufactures. ... All of these are 
reflected in the press. 

This long listing would be ideally complemented if only it were possible 
to hear once again the heartbeats of the people, to feel the pulse of the ports, 
to see the labors of the slave gangs, to sense the leaden solitude of the outly¬ 
ing cantons, and to follow the fluctuations in sugar, coffee, and indigo markets 
and the rise and fall of personal fortunes; to witness the libertine behavior* 
the love of high living and ostentation and to hear, rising above the road to 
riches, the mournful plaints, the anguish of the slaves, the sounds of then- 
revolts. . . . 

When, in their reference to slaves, the Saint-Domingue newspapers shame¬ 
fully lump them with the plantation animals, they are faithfully reflecting 
colonial mentality. They are in tune with a contemporary manner of thinking 
and writing which, disdaining affectation, increasingly defied propriety and 
modesty with unglosscd truth and crude details. This characteristic must have 
been especially typical of the Saint-Domingue men of affairs, the colony's 
cynics and realists. Whether it be a detail about the very brief labor preceding 
the queen's delivery of a sound, healthy prince, 1 or of Her Majesty's miscar¬ 
riage immodestly recounted, daily examples of this are to be found in the 
Affiches Americaines: 

On All Saints' Day certain mishaps suffered with unexpected suddeness 
by the Queen gave cause to fear a miscarriage. Her Majesty was most 
promptly given the best measures indicated, to no avail. The next day with¬ 
out effort and with scarcely any pain Her Majesty delivered an aborted, well- 
formed embryo attested by the most scrupulous and authentic examination. 
The Queen was in her third month of pregnancy. Of this unhappy event 
which destroyed the fondest hopes Her Majesty experienced no distressing 

Or perhaps it is an item about the indisposition of the minister Marshal 
de Castries, "laid low by bleeding piles/’ 3 or about the curious confessions of 
a colonial wife who “having buried four husbands before the age of thirty/* 
denounced one of them known to be fond of extramarital idylls and the 



attractions of black women. He is “caught in flagrant intimacy with a servant, 
a horror of about twenty four years of age. , , His wife, . tired of the 
fact that he seldom shared with me his sex activity , , decided to get along 
without it. .. ,* >4 

Clearly this is the same unrestrained direct language used in the incredibly 
contemptuous advertisements of runaway slaves and stray animals. Here are 
some verbatim examples followed by some very suggestive common models: 

—For sale: Sr, Cazeau of Cul-de-Sac and soon leaving the island has for sale a 
black woman beautifully corpulent, a good laundress, and breastfeeding a mu¬ 
latto boy. Available on trial basis, 

—To be sold at Cap Government House, by lot or individually, eighty males free 
of mortgage, and six females, one with three children, 

—At the sale previously announced for the sixth of the month Sr. Gal tier residing 
in Leogane near the Post will offer a fine catch of eighteen head of male slaves 
and little boys bom in the island, a negress on the verge of giving birth, an ex¬ 
cellent mulatto hairdresser, coachman and fair violinist, fifteen sheep, six mules, 
a herd of cows ready to give birth, a stubborn ass, seventeen goats, plus a one- 
armed solidly built griffc,* an excellent driver, all fit for work, even the boys. 
Can arrange a fine combination for cash. 

—For sale, a sugar mill in Leogane with four carts, twelve mules, thirty slaves and 
other necessary tools. 

—For sale, a forty-ycar-old slave woman, a good housekeeper, and her creole 
mulatto son between twenty and twenty-two, fit for anything. 

—For sale, a complete family from the Detort estate, to wit, Joligout, a fifty-year- 
old Nago, his Congo wife Martha, forty, their sons Gaspard, nineteen, Jean- 
Pierre, fourteen, Jean-Baptistc, eight, and daughters Marie-Jeanne, sixteen, 
Anne, eleven, and Marie, five. 

—For sale, together or separately, Fanchon, a Coueda laundress, forty-three, and 
her twenty-five year old son, a good cook. 

—Sale due to departure, wholesale or individually, a work gang of eighty slaves, 
half of them males. 

—Sr. Rou%'ier offers an assortment of drugs, foodstuffs, several Congo boys, and 
Arada women all newly arrived and in fairly good condition. 

—For sale as a unit, a mulatto woman house-servant, a wagon, mule and horse. 

—Skilled slaves, one seven or eight months pregnant, belonging to Abbot Enos, 
leading cantor in Cap, living on the Street of the Nuns. 

—For sale because of departure a lot consisting of furniture, chairs and beds, 

* Son of a black parent and one born of mulatto and black parents. The female of such 
a union was a griffonne. 

Descriptions of Maroons 5 

three ho use-servants and other items. Nine earreaux* newly planted in coffee. 
Inquire Jean Simon, free Negro living in Dondon, will accept payment in slaves 
or in cows, mules, sheep, homed animals and cavalioes. 

—For rent, two nursemaids of very good temperament, five slaves equally capable 
as cooks or housekeepers. 

—‘A Negro wet nurse in exchange for a valet. 

—For sale, an A rad a almost ready to give birth, a young faithful creole of six¬ 
teen years and still a virgin, a very beautiful grifforme possessing all the quali¬ 
ties one could desire in a good housekeeper. Will accept payment in coffee. 

—One Marie-Therese, freedwoman, offers for nine-year land lease a coffee planta¬ 
tion in Black Mountain, including slaves and animals. 

Runaways * 

—A new Negro, a Congo newly arrived, about twenty-five, carrying the Lascaze 
brand on both sides of the chest and Saint-Marc underneath, walks with diffi¬ 
culty because of severe hernia* 

—A new slave, no name yet. 

—A mulatto, six months a Maroon, between thirty and thirty-five, smallpox scars, 
branded and missing two fingers from his left hand, property of Sr. Louis Lap ole 
of Petite Anse. Said mulatto passes for free, using a fake certificate. 

—Jean-Louis, an Indian, looks white, has long straight hair. 

—Zabeth, an Ibo, five feet one, quite homely, has scars and lash marks on her 
shoulders having only recently been whipped. Fled the home of the under¬ 
signed. Marianne, Free Mulatress and peddler of Bas-Limbe, carrying off a lot 
of merchandise. Reward of five Portuguese for her return. 

—Seven newly arrived slaves, part of the cargo of the vessel Uaimable Henriette, 
all Congos, not yet branded. 

—Runaway, a male Thiamba slave with a new haircut and taking with him a 
horse with a newly cropped gray mane. 

—Picked up at Mome Rouge a stray chestnut English horse, heavy body, no 
apparent brand . * . a roan mare branded F.L. in interlaced letters, a young 
blind mule with tips of ears split taken to the jail on the 12th instant, a brown 
she-ass, thigh branded STL Aux Cayes, brought back with her foul by the 
guard, a young ass, three months old, no brand, with a slight limp and right 
ear cut off, a reddish brown she-ass in foal, has leg sores. 

In Jail 

—dean-Baptiste, a Hausa branded P. Charles, about twenty years old, has a chain 

* One camau equalled 2.47 acres. 


around his neck, knock-kneed, reddish complexion, claims he belongs to Father 
Charles, Petit Goave priest 

—Rosette, a creole, Coustard brand on the right breast, the two last letters inter¬ 
laced, age fourteen, says she belongs to her father, one Antoine a free black in 
the Croix des Bouquets section. 

—An Indian mulatto wkh many leg sores, his tongue cut out. 

—reveille called Matou, a Nago, thirty-six to thirty-eight years old, five feet four, 
smallpox scarred, branded on his right chest Latouche and Mesmer and, below 
that, PPX and on the left of his chest "Arteau au Cap" and, below that, a super¬ 
imposed brand and another illegible one; carries many facial and body scars 
characteristic of his people, speaks French well. Said slave fled the night of the 
ninth from Widow Chateiin’s plantation in Artibonite, carrying his clothes and a 

—A new slave, seventeen, completely naked, short, arrested and brought back 
from Spanish territory and later to the Fort Dauphin jail, has no idea of his 
name or that of his master. 

Sale of Stray Slaves 

—To be sold at the Royal Seat of L 6 ogane a new slave, a mute with no apparent 
brand; his left wrist lacerated by the irons detained at 1’Hdpital dcs Peres; Jean 
Baptiste, a powerful Mondongo with pointed teeth says he escaped from the 
Lacombe plantation. Victoire and his two-year old, a light-skinned creole with 
both ears cut off, brand illegible; a Senegalese calling himself Caesar with no 
apparent brand, says he escaped from the corvette Cupidon in the slave port; 
Louis, an Indian Negro, claims to be free, slim, doesn't know his master's name; 
a blind male with a wizened left foot, lash marks on his chest, looks old and 

It is as though this were some macabre fantasy . . . but there is no more 
authentic image of the cruelty of slavery than these advertisements. They en¬ 
compass a tragedy which for sheer barbarity has never been exceeded. On 
the one hand, rebellious serfs, branded and tamed lackeys—the beasts of 
labor and the castrated bulls of the colony—exhibiting beneath their ragged 
garments the bite of the whip upon their black skin. On the other hand, always 
mercilessly rapacious as in some unequal jungle confrontation, the white 
colonial masters and their apprentices, the free blacks and mixed-bloods. 

All of this is revived and lived again, thanks to the Saint-Dominguc press. 
On the basis of this exceptionally interesting mass of information, it is now 
possible to study marronage itself, Within the framework of blood and 
tears, teeming with vice, and rent by the sounds of pain, marronage was born 
and developed over the years, an elusive problem of fleeting shadows , , . 
the aborted dreams of escape from shackles , , . tenacious desire never 
diminished . , . breathless fugitives captured and dragged off to jail . . . routed 
rebels crushed to earth confining their weary, broken bodies to its bitter 

Descriptions of Maroons 7 

furrows streaked with blood across the three hundred years of colonization. 
Marronage, with all its sudden starts, its reversals, its surges* is the most 
moving of this bitter past. 

Omitting from consideration the declamatory style which for a number 
of essayists was the favorite genre in studies of the past, this major question 
in our history has been approached only tentatively. Actually there have been 
a handful of studies on marronage. Their authors without recourse to primary 
sources contented themselves with exposing and analyzing the then-meager, 
largely incomplete statements of historians whose greatest merit is that, with 
diverse inclinations and at times equally burning passion* they left us the basis 
of a history yet to be written. 

This business, this love of rehashing* scarcely helped advance the study 
of marronage w'hich, on the contrary, engulfed itself in chauvinistic and 
sterile verbiage. On the subject of marronage and slavery in general, the 
needed light can come only from new sources, sources other than the notes 
already sifted and resifted, notes still inconsistent or of no major relevance 
to historical truth. If we are to make headway, to stop titillating ourselves 
with couplets about "sublime Maroons,” there must be instituted a methodical 
examination of many archival dossiers, minutes of Saint-Domingue notaries, 
contemporary newspapers, plantation and slave-sales records, work-gang 
rosters, and the very rare bills of lading of slave ships. Clearly indicated is a 
long, exhaustive task requiring, no doubt* a team effort. We mention this 
as an appeal for research and also to reduce the study proposed here in all 
humility to the proper proportiQns of a tentative step forward. 

It appears to us that the announcements of flight, the descriptions of 
Maroons published in the Saint-Domingue newspapers can shed new light on 
the practice of marronage and at the same time oil the face of the slave. 
These advertisements include: notices of escaped slaves, the lists of Maroons 
captured and incarcerated, and notices of public sales of stray slaves. These 
varied descriptions include height; age; brand and name of slave; national 
origin; proprietor; place arrested; characteristics; talents or trade; state of 
health; possible illnesses; the wearing of a necklace or chains by a dwarf; his 
gait; bearing; dress; language; traces of punishments; blow ? s and wounds; 
teeth; hair; skin color. No other documents of colonial history permit a more 
precise approach to the slave. None can better provide information on the 
origins and better describe the face of the true fathers of the Haitian nation. 

Here then is the focus of this step-by-step investigation of marronage and 
its development upon which the mass of information of all kinds supplied by 
Saint-Domingue newspapers, in addition to these very precious advertise¬ 
ments, will shed light. 

Due to the fact that newspapers did not appear in Cap and Port-au- 
Prince until 1764, documentation on marronage is more plentiful at the 
approach of the Revolution. Besides this, the Saint-Domingue press was con¬ 
centrated in the colony’s large parishes and principal sectors: Cap, Port-au- 


Prince, Fort-Dauphin, Saint-Louis, Grande Anse, Jacmel, L£ogane, Cul-dc- 
Sac, Saint-Marc, Petit-Goave. Many distant cantons remain in obscurity. 
Whatever the case, these thousands of descriptions are sufficiently numerous 
to permit at least a precise idea of our ancestors, of the designations and exact 
locations of African nations that were the sources of our formation as a 
people, of this mass of four hundred thousand liberated slaves who, in 1804, 
founded the Haitian nation. Before 1764, colonist victims of marronage, with 
a view to guaranteeing their rights, filed affidavits at the registry or, less often, 
had their rights to the person of the fugitive notarized. 

Even after 1764, these declarations are found in the minutes of Saint- 
Domingue notaries. When Monceaux created the first Saint-Domingue Gazette 
he issued, on 8 February 1764, this invitation to the publication of lists of 
incarcerated slaves: 

Since the founding of the Saint-Domingue Gazette, there has been an appar¬ 
ently lively demand that it carry as one of the articles of greatest value a 
report on Maroons in or soon to be in the various jails of the colony. The 
Intendant has, for the satisfaction of the public, consented and in consequence 
issued orders thereto. Please be sure to indicate as accurately as possible for 
each slave so specified name, apparent age, nation and brand. 

An ordinance of the intendant dated 26 March 1764 announced “the 
establishment of three chain gangs to which the Maroons of the various sectors 
will be attached: one at Cap, one at Port-au-Prince, and one at Saint-Louis.” 
The value of these descriptions, as well as the organization of the jails for the 
Maroons, correlates with the major anxiety of the colonists. That is to say 
that from its earliest days the Saint-Domingue Gazette was able to devote a 
special section to slaves brought to jail. 

These announcements appeared so useful that the colonists on their own 
initiative also demanded of the Saint-Domingue Gazette the publication, be¬ 
ginning the end of February 1764, of the first notices denouncing slaves in 
marronage, with their descriptions and all details pertinent to their capture. 
In 1767, the Royal Ordinance of 18 November made it compulsory to publish 
in the Affiehes Amiricaims t the name to be carried by the colony’s gazette, 5 
names and other descriptions of unclaimed stray slaves to be put up for sale. 
This information was to be published 'Hwo months before the sale.” In Saint- 
Domingue, the first notice of slave sales is dated 10 August 1768.® 

Of the three types of announcements relating to the Maroons, those 
which concern the sale of stray slaves and the lists of captured fugitives were 
published by fiat. Announcements of runaways were in fact made with the 
approval of the white proprietors or the black or mulatto freedmen. In gen¬ 
eral, once alerted of such flight, the manager of the plantation usually set in 
motion a roundup (battue). When this proved fruitless, the colonist had no 
other recourse than to describe the fugitive—an action that was obligatory 
only during the last days of colonization. This was done through the medium 

Descriptions of Maroons 9 

of announcements in the press, sometimes by declarations before a notary or 
before the court clerk in guarantee of his property rights in the event of the 
Maroon’s being captured/ as we have already indicated. 

It goes without saying that, however imposing the number of Maroons 
in the runaway advertisements, they could not reflect a valid percentage of the 
number of Maroons within the servile masses. The implication is that for a 
correct estimate it would be necessary, perhaps, to double, if not triple, the 
numbers of Maroons declared by the masters, and in addition those fugitives 
not denounced by colonists in the outlying districts. Also, there was a large 
number of unregistered slaves whose flight their masters could not publicize 
without at the same time betraying their possession without legal declaration, 
as well as a large number of runaway slaves pursued only in organized hunts, 
those who were hanged or buried alive as a means of punishment and, finally, 
those killed by the police or devoured by dogs in the act of capture, all kept 
sub rasa . 

The colonists who resorted to these runaway notices usually did so during 
the week or month of the slave’s leaving. Sometimes six months, a year, or 
even several years afterward-—the fugitive having been spotted in some quar¬ 
ter of the colony according to reports coming from neighbors or acquaintances 
or some slave suspected of being the wanted fugitive—the search would be 
renewed and the trail picked up again, not always an easy feat. 

In general, most of the announcements of runaways generally include 
name, brand, national origin, sometimes height or age, all indications recom¬ 
mended by the administration when it was decided to publish descriptions of 
slaves in jail. The descriptions are laconic, especially those relating to newly 
imported slaves: 

—'Marie, an Arada, Marcadet brand on both breasts, belongs to Mr. Gouson of 

—Newly arrived slave with only ship s brand. 

—Abrotse, creotc, 5 ft. 3 inches, no brand, escaped from the Delaville plantation 
at Saint-Marc. 

By contrast, other announcements are crammed with information os is 
tills anguished appeal from Larcheveque Thibaut, repeated month after 
month in 1783: 

A grifTonne, Fatine Diay or Daine, daughter of one Fanchettc known as Fan- 
chctte a Dorc, Free Negress of Savanc dc Limonadc, said grifTonne formerly 
belonged to Doctor Polony, has no brand, is light-skinned, thin, nice body. 
Neither pretty nor ugly, oval face lightly scarred by smallpox, very small 
eyes, bright and wide awake, rather sharp nose, full somewhat bulging lips, 
fairly thick, frizzly eyebrows, shapely forehead, very small thin hands and 
feet, walks with head high affecting the manners and tone of a Free Mula- 


tress, loves to dress well and normally wears slippers on bare feet and is 
wild about attending the dances of the free colored people or slaves. Anyone 
coming across the said griffon ne, a Maroon since the end of last September, 
is requested to have her arrested and to give notice to M. Larchcveque Ihi- 
baut, lawyer to the Conseil Supencur du Cap, to whom she belongs. Reward, 

How did marronage compare with other forms of rebellion against the 
system such as individual and collective suicide, sabotage, arson, poisoning 
and abortions? How was marronage carried out? What were its causes, its 
evolution? These are the major questions that are the focus of this inquiry. 
The purpose is to shed more light on the answers and upon certain aspects 
of the slave trade or on the life of the slave and of the masters—all integrally 
linked. In short, this is to be a preliminary look at the documentation of 

An examination of slavery, however summary, 0 might seem outside the 
scope of this work, but it is precisely the absence of such reference that 
would prove io be a serious omission, Marronage, an open rebellion against 
slavery, could not be explained without taking into account the general con¬ 
ditions of the system. Moreover, to speak about the cause of marronage with¬ 
out attempting to uncover within slavery itself—whatever the perspective 
from which one examines it——the real reasons why slaves ran away would 
be fruitless: 

Marronage, in order to escape from what? 

From slavery. 

Hence, how can wc not speak of slavery? 

And what at the very onset of this inquiry, must our concern be if not to 
show who the slave was, how he lived, and why he became a Maroon? 

Our hope is that we will have made a contribution however modest, to 
the history, known or ignored, of the slaves of Saint-Dominguc who, it is 
said, struck out for liberty in the grief-filled land of Saint-Dominguc. They 
were determined to be free, . . , 

NOTES, pp* 3-10 

1. Affiches Arnericmnes, 27 March 1785, 

2* Affiches Amerieaines, 21 April 1784* 

3. Supplement des Affiches A miricaines, 31 December 1785* 

4 * S.A.A* 1 January 1785 . An aggressive widow would write to the journalist Gate- 
reau: “If the blows of a stick could be sent by post you would read my letter on 
your back*” (Widow Pommier’s letter, Samt-Domingue Courier, 1 April 1791*) 
The same gazette reported with this plethora of crude details the long illness 
which, at fifty-five, carried off Mr, de Vallieres at Port-au-Prince on 14 April 1775: 
“At about ten o'clock there was an attack of indigestion for which the prompt 
measures taken immediately produced the desired effect and the General had a 
bowel movement* * * * The gentle purgative w'hich he took produced the best 
results, , * * The General w r as also completely purged on the twenty-first as he had 
been on the nineteenth* . * A.A. 1 February, 22 February and 1 March 1775* 

5. The name Gazette de Sainf-Domingue suggested a certain spirit of independence 
which had alarmed Versailles. 

6. A.A. 6 July and 10 August 1768. 

1. Some colonists would offer Maroons for sale “at the risk of the purchaser*” 

8, A slave who had been Maroon six years was declared in 1783 and in 1785 “a Carib 
who has been a Maroon for the last eight years*” 

9. Gabriel Debien has published in one volume his series of extremely rich studies 
of slavery in Samt-Domingue* 




Through Colonial Eyes 

FIRST OF ALL, what were the causes of marronage? Contemporary wit¬ 
nesses have very little to say about this. For them, escapes were due to inci¬ 
dental causes such as hunger, a vagabond nature, laziness, fear of punishment 
or abuse by some masters, No witness of the period has conceded to the 
Maroon an ideal or even a need for liberty. Chroniclers and historians have 
with unanimity stressed that the colonists regarded the slave as an inferior 
being still at the level of a more or less developed animal, although often he 
might have been baptized. 

They made little differentiation among slave, pack mule, or ox. They were 
all equal, or almost so, instruments of labor or of domestic service. The black 
man “was bom to be a slave.” Slavery was his natural state. It was indeed 
his good fortune that he escaped the worse destiny of remaining in Africa, 
a prisoner to barbarous customs with the risk of losing his soul. Such was the 
general mentality. Thus, it is by way of such conceptions that Dutertre, Cesar 
dc Rochfort, Fathers Labat, Nicolson and Charlevoix, however sensitive to 
the misery of the slaves, or even Moreau de Saint-Mery, have indicated, in 
passing, the causes of marronage. They omit, of course, any mention of a 
basic need for liberty. The actual reports of the administrators of the colony, 
as well as the correspondence of the colonists, often reveal the same state of 
mind. Cesar dc Rochefort, with a great sense of shame, saw the slave as “a 
perpetual servant.” 

As for the slaves or perpetual servants used in the Antilles, their origin 
is Africa. They are bought there as one would buy beasts of burden. Some 
are forced to sell themselves and to reduce themselves and their children to 
perpetual slavery in order to avoid starvation. Others having been made pris¬ 
oners of war by some local King arc sold. ... If these poor slaves fall into 
the hands of a good master who does not treat them too harshly, they prefer 
their servitude to their original liberty. They are timid . . . and are quickly 
reduced to obedience. They must be kept at their work by threats and by the 
lash. If they are punished with moderation when they have failed, they arc 
the better for it. Again if they are treated with excessive rigor they run 
away and secure themselves in the mountains where like poor beasts they 
lead an unhappy, wild life and are then called Maroons, that is to say, 
savages. . * - 



Charlevoix continues in the same vein with, it must be admitted, some 
trace of sadness: 

Nothing is more miserable than the condition of these people who seem 
to be Nature's rejects, and the shame of humanity. * . . Deprived of the 
wealth which all other peoples guard zealously, they are reduced almost to 
the condition of a beast of burden. . ■ . Yet, to take them out of so painful 
and humiliating a condition would be wasted effort it is said for they would 
abuse it. * * . Strictly speaking it is only the Africans from the area between 
Cape White and Black Cape who may be said to have been born for servi¬ 
tude* These unfortunates readily avow that an inner voice tells them that 
they are an accursed nation* The more spiritual ones such as the Senegalese 
have learned by tradition that their misfortune is the result of a sin by their 
father, Tam, who mocked his Father. * , * Insofar as intelligence is concerned 
all the blacks from Guinea are extremely dull minded; some even appear 
stupid and as though in a daze* * * . These are robots whose springs must be 
rewound each time one wishes to activate them. * . * Many of these faults 
may be corrected by judicious use of the whip if by chance this remedy is 
employed, but frequently it is necessary to stun all over again* . * ? 

Father Labat’s account is much the same: 

It was only with the utmost difficulty that King Louis XIV, he of glorious 
memory, pious and wise, was persuaded to permit the first inhabitants of 
the island to have slaves, finally consenting only after their pressing solicita¬ 
tions for such permission and their having pointed out that this was the one 
infallible means of inspiring the Africans to worship the true God, and to 
take them out of idolatry and to make them persevere all their lives in the 
Christian religion they would have been made to embrace. . . * They must 
be punished on the spot if they deserve it, or pardoned if considered a propos, 
for the fear of punishment often moves them to flee to the woods and to 
become maroons, and once they have tasted this life of irresponsibility it is 
very, very difficult to break them of the habit. . , 

Father Nicolson has this to say: 

It is a prejudice widespread in the islands that there is to be found among 
the slaves no sense of attachment, no intelligence, no feelings. 4 

Abbe Raynal, Barre dc Saint-Venant, Malouet, Bryan Edwards, Girod 
Chantrans, de WimpfTcn, Deseourtilz and Malcnfant have all stressed this 
traditional similarity of slave and animal* It is only a question of which ani¬ 
mal, the plow animal, the beast of burden, or the service animal. Even Sainf- 
Mery, although in his time reputed to be an enlightened man, revealed himself 
to be marked by the same colonial mentality* His opinions on the African 
are those of the colonial slave owner: 

Through Colonial Eyes 17 

. , , The conviction of the impossibility of putting an end to slavery would 
have required that one think only of softening it, of reducing its rigors, . . . 
Deprived of all education* prey to every prejudice, to all the terrors of ig¬ 
norance he [the slave] is weak and fearful. Thus* the Mandingo slave even 
when he has been violently thrust under the yoke is suitable for work in the 
islands where his lot is improved* . , * The present fact is that the black is in a 
state of real degeneration compared with the civilized European. Such is their 
condition that it justifies the argument that for the effects of their degenera¬ 
tion, perhaps the work of centuries, to entirely disappear additional centuries 
would be required, and as well a sudden merging of cause and will that is 
difficult to imagine, however attractive this hope might be,® 

All this is like the same vinegar served in different bottles for laving the 
wound and the shame of slavery. This is by no means surprising. It is a moral 
distortion of the times* one which very few chroniclers and historians have 
escaped-—-a sort of judgment rooted in a way of thinking by which the seven¬ 
teenth and eighteenth centuries happily justified the horrors of the slave 

In spite of the broadening of their minds and the relative amelioration in 
slave conditions the colonists never renounced belief in the slave as animal 
and the white man as benefactor. As late as 1790* for example, a rather 
harebrained colonist* like those who would venture to philosophize, sum¬ 
marized the colonial mentality in these strange terms; 

Let us take a look at the blacks in the vast solitude of Africa where they 
vegetate in a land almost devoid of culture, without industry, lacking art, 
laws and civilization, prey to all life's demands, all the excesses of plunder¬ 
ing, to the mournful effects of a monstrous superstition ... in a deplorable, 
uneasy and precarious existence he awaits the moment when the fortunes of 
war must deliver him to the cruelties of his vanquisher , . , when a European 
merchant appears to bring his captive the only help which can save his life 
and convert the certainty of his death into an obligation to go work the soil 
of an American isle. , , . The first trader who decided to go bartering, in 
Africa, trinkets for men, undoubtedly rendered a great service to humanity 
and certainly rescued from death more victims than the number of deaths 
caused by European greed on the American continent. 6 

Thus it will come as a surprise that the statement of the causes of mar- 
ronage, with its piecemeal solutions or its traditional and varied distortions 
should remain a major problem, a problem which it is important to engage 
with indispensable rigor and objectivity. 

It would be self-deception to study marronage without having unraveled 
its true causes, or* even more so, to continue to analyze these causes from 
the perspective of witnesses who are cither suspect because of the mentality 
of their epoch or indifferent to these aspects of marronage or to marronage 
itself. The causes given by some eyewitnesses or Saint-Domingue chroniclers 


arc without doubt valid. They are, however, incomplete and singularly limited 
to only those reactions attributable to people “devoid of all feeling” and “bom 
for slavery.” We will examine the so-called classic causes first enunciated 
by Father Dutertrc: 

Uprooting, the harsh conditions of slavery (labor, housing, hygiene, food) 
and, finally, the cruelty of the masters—these arc the causes which from the 
outset provide a first approach to the study of marronage. As for the nature 
of marronage itself, whether it was an expression of a temporary whim or a 
real rebellion against the regime; whether it was "grand” or “petty” marron¬ 
age, 7 forms which throughout the colonization period existed side by side, 
the secret objective of these stray impulses to escape or of those serious rup¬ 
tures of the ban could in fact only be related to a continual rejection—in one 
form or another—of slavery. How dissociate them and why? 

Provisional or decisive, the Maroon’s rebellion could only prove to be an 
indivisible, active protest, an evident and common hostility to the conditions 
of slavery, according of course to the circumstances, possibilities, courage or 
temperament of each Maroon. That is why, without veering into a preliminary 
determination of the slave’s search for a breath of freedom or for liberty 
itself, it is important above all to disclose the causes of marronage. Besides, 
these causes can serve to indicate in large measure the very character of 
marronage and its actual tendencies if indeed the latter, however unpreciscly, 
reveal themselves by the light of the "descriptions,” as the most enlightening 
of all the documents on marronage. 


The Uprooting 

WAS THERE for the slave a real difference betwen the African environment 
to which he was born and the conditions of climate, labor, housing, food and 
language he found in Saint-Domingue? Did he, just on these considerations 
alone, suffer confusion and disorientation? 

In spite of diverse origins and cultures the three great ethnic groups which 
insured the settlement of Saint-Domingue—Sudanese, Guineans and Bantus— 
offer certain basic traits in common which, against a background hardly af¬ 
fected by occasional special characteristics, formed strong lines of contact 
and influence. Over the centuries these have in turn marked the peoples of 
this vast geographic area extending from north to south along the western 
coasts of Africa* 

Generally, the climate is almost the same, hot and humid the length of 
the coast, and correspondingly cooler in the interior as the altitude increases* 
This climate, compared to that of Saint-Domingue, did not involve a marked 
change* Without doubt, it was not difficult for a slave from the Gulf of Guinea 
or from the Angola coast to become acclimated in the colony to a shorter 
less abundant rainfall in scarcely different surroundings* Father Nicolson has 
supplied precious and precise information on the climate of Saint-Domingue: 

Usually Mr. de Reaumur's thermometer climbs from about 22 to 23 de¬ 
grees above freezing at 6 a.m., at 10:30 from 23, 24, 25 and 26 degrees; at 
5 p.m. from 23 to 24 degrees, at 10 o'clock and throughout the night, from 22 
to 23 degrees, . * * The temperature in the other sections is almost the same as 
at Cap. * . * The heat is more noticeable on the plains because the sun's rays 
fall perpendicularly there; the mountain ranges block the action of the rays 
and conserve the earth's humidity for a longer time. . * * The coolness of 
some of the mornings there is quite like that of a European springtime* From 
May to August the rains are normally heavy at Cul-de-Sac, Port-au-Prince, 
Leoganc, on the coast at Nippes, at Grand Anse and in several other 
sections* * * * a 

How then can it be claimed that climate was a factor in uprooting? No 
doubt, uprooting as a reaction did exist, but for other reasons more emo¬ 
tional than physical* Isolation, for example* This will become evident* As for 
the kind of agricultural work, diet and housing, the excesses and inadequacies 



of the colonial system apart, the overall change was not a vital one. The 
imported slaves came from regions where agriculture and stock farming 
were, from time immemorial, the major activities carried on with detailed vari¬ 
ations in customs* In general, there were the identical custom of scorching 
the land, the same agricultural tools, and a soil of similar composition.® 

From this point of view, the slave experienced no sense of being uprooted. 
Dr, Price-Mars writes: 

Brought over to Samt-Domingue, he came with his rudimentary skills and 
his familiarity with the tools of labor. Consequently, there was little change 
in his contact with European techniques applied to the Antillean milieu: the 
clearing of land with an ax, its parceling out with hoe and machete. A less 
pronounced earthward bend of the torso helped him improve his control of 
the hoc with its wider blade and longer haft than in his native land. In other 
respects an easy acculturation so far as occupation is concerned, since almost 
the same types of tools were used. Besides, work methods were quite similar. 
Back home, collective or team labor in cooperation with family groups. Here, 
group but forced labor under the strict discipline of a driver (commandettr) t 
Also different were the types of agriculture: here—tobacco, indigo, sugar 
cane, coffee; there—almost exclusively harvest crops: oil palms, millet, plan¬ 
tains, the production of tubers, principally yams. From the point of view of 
material and technical acclimatization the change from one environment to 
another was not, it might be said, very marked. It was simply a matter of 
becoming used to the constraint of (he harsh, inexorable discipline of the 
colonial scene. . * . 10 

On the colony’s plantations and in the factories a diet based on corn, 
millet, yams, manioc, sweet potatoes, roots and rice scarcely differed from 
the habitual fare of the slave, not to mention the use of the plantain and red 
beans which the Congos established in the colonial cuisine. In Africa, the 
Senegalese lived on manioc, corn, rice and millet. It was the same with the 
Soso of Guinea, the Dahomey Aradas, fond of accasan and doucounou* the 
Ibo and many other “nations.” This will be elaborated on in the chapter on 
slave diet. 

By contrast, the slave’s feeling of isolation could arise because of lan¬ 
guage, the frequent problem of making himself understood, and because of 
the shock of finding himself snatched from his family, from his distant father* 
land, amid brothers and sisters not really such, being of unknown “nations” 
and dialects, and greatly lacking the interdependence of the creoles and the 
creolized. These latter were always ready to heap with jeers the bozals ; new 
arrivals who, as they tried to express themselves, could only speak broken 
creole (parler langage ). In addition to the chains, there was indeed a unifying 

* Acassan: corn meal mush eaten with cane syrup. Doucounou; corn meal cooked in 
plantain leaves with brown sugar and coconut. 

The Uprooting 21 

bond. This was the Creole language, but fluency for the slave required a 
long apprenticeship. 

Was it really a language based on African syntax and French lexicon, 
born of the need for communication between slave and master? That is the 
popular opinion confirmed with authority by Suzanne Sylvain-Comhaire but 
contradicted by the staggering observations of Jules Paine. For all that, this 
passionate linguistic debate has not yet been resolved. Actually, Sylvain- 
Comhaire detects in the formation of Creole a “predominant” African influ¬ 
ence deriving from the contribution of the Eburneo-Dahomian group of lan¬ 
guages making of our popular Creole “a French molded in an African syntax 
, t . a Ewe language with French vocabulary,” 11 

Jules Fainc denies “the influence of West African languages on the struc¬ 
ture of Creole” and characterizes it as an “essentially neoromancc language 
in the formation of which the slave element was virtually inoperative, con¬ 
tributing nothing to the structure of Creole languages,” 12 

As is known, Jules Faine is committed to demonstrating the striking simi¬ 
larities between Mauritian and Haitian Creole, “twin offsprings from a single 
egg,” concluding that only the French-speaking colonial could have created 
Creole, since the language is found to be the same in Saint-Domingue and 
Maurice, two islands separated by a considerable distance. Moreover, there 
is not the slightest contact between the two, 13 while the peoples of that distant 
Pacific isle had no other language than Malayo-Polynesian, and the Afri¬ 
cans brought to Saint-Domingue knew only some very different languages of 
West Africa. 14 

Avoiding the temptation of considering myself a linguist, and while wait¬ 
ing for the debate to be weighed and settled by a serious inquiry headed by 
our School of Ethnology, 1 do not believe that Creole, a communications need 
for two peoples of different languages, could have been in any way the mono¬ 
logue of a group systematically deforming its own language in order to create 
a new one—a language miraculously understood by another group which had 
remained mute. 

Apparently, simple logic stands hesitant before such a phenomenon—a 
language with syntax and vocabulary essentially African, yet essentially a neo- 
romance language. Without doubt, the contributions of both population 
groups were brought to bear on the problem of finding a means of communi¬ 
cation, There yet remains to be determined the influence of each without ig¬ 
noring the input of the Spaniards, the English, and of the Indians who in¬ 
habited Saint-Domingue and who combined the misery of their last survivors 
with that of the Africans brought to take their place on the island. In any 
ease the question remains open. The colonial texts we have seen, such as 
those of Malenfant, Descourtilz, or Moreau de Saint-Mery—together with 
those from the period of Independence coupled with old songs dating from 
the beginnings of the Haitian community-—permit realization of an appreci¬ 
able evolution of Creole, so much so that today ! s Haitian would perhaps 


find it fairly difficult to hold a conversation with Toussamt-Louvertiire, 
Dessalines, or Petion, and even with compatriots from the days of Boyer or 
Soulouque * 

Clearly there is a need for the study of the origins and evolution of 
Creole. As it is with the songs from the earliest days of the Haitian period 
the oral language of the slave transmitted, it is true* by the colonist and having 
thereby undergone changes, appears to us closer to the “Frenchified” Creole 
of Martinique with its “old France” phrasing and expressions which today 
have disappeared: 

“toute hi tat ion outi y en a passe 40 negres* (Outi more latterly became 

[every plantation where there are more than 40 negroes! 

4 ‘guette-li [look at him] for gadi-li; li sale trop mot dis vous; guette li t bonda 

U a latr** 

(taunting of bossales by creole Africans, reported by Descourtilz: 33 “ maitre a 
io batte to pou grand merer ( gremeci). 1 * 1 
[Their master whipped them for nothing.] 17 

" Moi bien connai souif u yo pas senti piece."** [I know very well that they 
don't smell at all.] 

"Paix bouchc & vous** (Pc bouche ou f an femin: fermer bouche-ou.) [Keep 

“him maman pottle qui grasse out [O, that's a fat hen!] 

Only the expression maman poule survives in our present speech. And 
currently wc no longer say papa cochon for the male pig or papa boeuf or 
mama boeuf as in the colonial days to designate bull and cow. 

4 ‘Si nous gagne grand gout" for “si nous gain" [If you are hungry] 

"Procureur, li mentor trop" [The lawyer is a big liar] 

Rereading the “Song of Evahim and Aza” (slaves on Plantation Pelerin 
dcs Cayes) or the Creole songs, among them “Lisette quitte la plaine" re¬ 
ported by Saint-Mery, the differences are still further accentuated when the 
“old France” phrasings arc compared with the Haitian Creole of today. 

Whatever the known evolution of Creole, and every language has its evo¬ 
lution, there is discernible borrowing of African terms 20 and words inherited 
from Marcorix; Spanish and English, as well as an enormous French influ¬ 
ence—all passed into the spoken language, particularly the French with its 
typical expressions and turn of speech as it was spoken in the colony, 

* Haitian presidents: 1818-43 and 1847-49. 

** "Hts too dirty, I tell you; look at him with his ban: ass showing.’ 1 

The Uprooting 23 

A reading of the Saint-Domingue press over a thirty-year period reveals 
striking examples of this special vocabulary which profoundly marked Creole 
and lies at the origin of numerous Haitianisms* ** Words and special expressions 
peculiar to Saint-Domingue thus continue their existence in today’s Haitian 
speech* Examples: 

rentourage (cloture), caioges (cages), rechanges (vitements), hardes (cos- 
tume, rades) eperlin (piege, periin), rnitan (milieu), vats scan (recipient), 
gourd in (fraction of a gourde coin) jardin and habitation (par cede cultivSe 
and plantation ) petite place t grande place t raque, petit mil , fistibal (fronde) 
for fustibale, cambuse for brevette, mulct pote , bourriquet Squior t bois 
debout, grave de verretie, poule zinga, un cheval gris-pintade, nigresse vail - 
lante, seins debout, d toute boutine, 21 merci en piler 2 a plantation battante 
d t'eau, another colloquee (located) next to a large river, il se lote a beautiful 
necklace* . . .* 

This influence extends even to the customary style of simple advertise¬ 
ments to the point that the style of these announcements has become a habit, 
a singularity to which we continue to cling* 

Gone Maroon a mulatress named Manon, twenty-five to thirty years old; 
she lived in Cap at Lady Cotin’s where she learned her trade as midwife* 

“Restoif* is to be translated as habitait (lived). The word rete remained 
in the language as did mettez-vous for asseyez-vous or brigand for turbulent, 
actionnaire for thneraire (bold), monte r en haut, descend re en bas, reculer 
en arriere, allumer la tumicre. . . 

The said African, Free Negro of Port-au-Prince most humbly entreats 
businessmen, captains and merchants to extend no credit to the said widow 
lean Phillipe Vert iliac presently his wife who absented herself from his home 
several days ago, declaring that henceforth he will not pay her charges. 23 

Time has not effaced from our journals these indiscreet extravagances 
nor, taking a cue from the unforgettable J. J* Audain, those liberties taken 
with the grammar, syntax and spelling of our borrowed language* Which of 
us has not at times stumbled along the difficult route to translation of our 
Creole thinking into French? 

It is, however, fortunate that this rather weighty colonial legacy attached 
to our speech has in no way prevented the flowering in our letters of so many 
works of such great integrity of expression that in no way mar the defense 

* For sale by the piece* 

** Climb upward, descend down, retreat backward, light the light. *. 


or glorification of the French language,* And that our essayists, poets and 
novelists continue to enrich our fidelity to the incomparable French culture. 

It is especially fortunate that our contribution has not in the slightest lost 
its originality and its emotional power nor the essence of our “Negritude,” of 
our “Haitianity. 11 

After language, the burning question which comes to mind is that of 
slavery itself. Although some captive victims of slave raids experienced their 
apprenticeship in slavery in Saint-Domingue, some of those carried off in the 
slave trade already had experienced slavery and the debasement of a similar 
condition. Hence it becomes a matter of interest to compare the practice of 
slavery in Africa and in SainKDomingue so as to determine if, for these 
transplanted slaves already acclimated to a condition of servitude, there was 
any reason at all for that reaction to the uprooting, which wc consider to 
be one of the causes of marronage. 

Let us immediately state that marronage, inseparable from slavery, existed 
in Africa as in Saint-Dominguc, although in Africa the servile state was a 
traditional social pattern very much different, in spite of its cruelty and its 
identical organization, from the excessive expenditure of energy daily required 
at Saint-Domingue, 

If slavery in its very essence did not forbid it, it would not be inappropri¬ 
ate to speak of paternalism in general in Africa, At any rate, even the forced 
labor in Africa had never assumed the infernal rhythm with which it was 
stamped in Saint-Domingue by the competition for wealth, the insatiable ap¬ 
petites of the colonist, his overriding scorn and his base prejudice. 

Documents on slavery in Africa tell of slaves well treated, living as part 
of the family generally. The atrocities—for they did exist—victimized not 
“natural” slaves but rather prisoners of war, criminals, offenders against the 
common law. Such, in every case, is the image generalized by the known docu¬ 
mentation, 21 If the colonial slaveholders received from Africa an organiza¬ 
tional model for slavery and practical methods for the total submission of the 
slaves that it was to their interest to adopt in order to guarantee the security 
of the colonies and the discipline of the labor force, there was always for the 
slave in submission to a white European, a different blend of the tribal tradi¬ 
tion. A thing inadmissible, this difference between a master of his own race 
and this new master. The African master was likely to be imposed upon him 
according to the fortunes of birth, wars and conquest among brothers of the 
same blood. The white master substituted force for tradition and in addition 
imposed a rhythm of labor to which the slow tempo of African life had not 
accustomed him. Some respected this master of another race because of his 
“providential” color; the majority, according to the slaves, were for the same 

* The reference is drawn on La Deffense et illustration dc la Longue Frangaise written 
in 1548 by one of RonsarcTs pupils, Joachim du Bel lay. In it he sketches and extols the 
scheme of the new poetry that Ronsard, drawing heavily on Latin and Greek forms, 
had fashioned. 

The Uprooting 25 

reason “afraid of being eaten" by this white man. At least these were the 
largely unsupported statements of contemporary witnesses. They may be 
considered to be founded on fact although, to repeat, the organization of 
slavery in Africa appears in its broad outline to depend on the same system 
as that adopted and singularly complicated with abuses and atrocities by the 
colonists. 23 

We have at hand as a quick reminder of slavery in Africa an apparently 
detailed and conscientious study of slavery among the Toucouleurs. Their sys¬ 
tem being no different from the customs observed in West Africa with respect 
to slavery, especially in the slave trade area, this reminder will pertinently 
encapsulate the scattered documentation available on African slavery during 
the days of the trade—and even on its present-day survivals, modified and 
softened, it is true. Here is a significant extract from the study of Yaya Wane; 

The Toucouleur slave population is apparently still sizeable but in the 
past it was certainly larger. According to certain estimates the slaves out¬ 
numbered all the other castes combined. Formerly, slavery was in fact more 
absolute and irreversible, certain well known families having owned as many 
as several thousand slaves. If prior to abolition the slave wished to put an 
end to his condition—and the opportunity to buy freedom being unavailable 
to many on account of high cost—the slave's only recourse was marronage. 
But in the majority of cases the slave's flight would end in recapture and con¬ 
sequently in a simple transfer to a new master. For in any case the fugitive 
had to cover a great distance if he were to regain his native land as it was 
very likely far away, not to mention that the runaway did not know the route 
nor at times the local language in which he needed to inquire about the 
route; it was particularly this ignorance which quite rapidly brought him or 
her to the greedy attention of other kidnappers. One must realize that in 
addition to the almost irreversible nature of the slave condition of early days 
wealth formerly consisted essentially in slaves, in the sense that the slaves 
were the unpaid producers of this wealth. To amass these riches it was then 
necessary to own the greatest number of slaves which were also cash money 
both for acquisition of land and cattle and for matrimonial exchange. 

This considerable and universal value of the slave in Toucouleur society 
made each person a potential slave. For there was never any hesitation in 
one's village to make off w r ith someone weaker in order to sell him. In addi¬ 
tion, by this convenient means, one could get rid of a political adversary or 
even an encumbering relative. All that had to be done was to deal with pro¬ 
fessional raiders and to lull the suspicion of the future slaves. They, not 
knowing their fate to be already sealed, accompanied those who would sell 
them to an apparently innocent spot, but one arranged in advance with the 
kidnappers. The latter had only to go into action, pay the recruiting mer¬ 
chant, and leave. In this way in a single day several people would disappear, 
and when this was noticed it was generally too late, the victim being already 
several leagues away from the village. The irreversibility of the slave condi¬ 
tion, greed fanned by his universal monetary value and the social jungle of 


the period—such were the major reasons for the continued increase in the 
numbers of the servile caste. 

On the other hand, warfare served constantly to reduce these numbers 
since the slave was also a conscript of choice. If war drastically reduced their 
numbers, the social consequences were negligible. Conversely, if the slave 
proved victor and thus earned his liberation, the vanquished replaced him in 
the chains. . . . Wars channeled to the Fouta many slaves of diverse origins: 
Bambara, Malinke, Sarakelle, even Wolof, 

Both the diversity of these geographic origins and their familial and 
social instability serve to explain the asbolutely limitless and confused sur- 
naming of the slaves. They were without differentiation integrated into the 
patronymic clan of their master, which they could frequently change or they 
would keep the patronym of their original ethnic group, or else adopt a fan¬ 
tasy name to hide this servile origin and try thus to free themselves of the 
infamy of the slave condition. It follows that due to their social instability 
and their diversified origins the slaves did not have, strictly speaking, 
specific traditions. Formerly, without doubt, every collection of slaves having 
any numerical importance (for example slaves of chiefs with royal grants, 
fiefs or provinces or even slaves of outstanding families) usually had its own 
jagodin appointed to it by the master. The jagodin was, after a fashion, the 
head of a collective of slaves over whom he had some ascendancy. He was 
responsible for general surveillance and distribution of tasks, as well as for 
questions relative to equipment and stewardship. The jagodin acted in the 
name of the common master, gave daily reports to the latter at the same lime 
that he received instructions, and reported on slave complaints. The jagodin, 
however, remained a slave like the others in spite of certain privileges at¬ 
tached to the function. As soon as he ceased to have the confidence of his 
master, he was divested of his function. It is likely that a loyal and irre¬ 
proachable jagodin through the quality of his services and his conduct was at 
long last duly recompensed by the master who decreed his freedom. 

With respect to labor, the slaves acquired only the specific professional 
skill which the master saw fit to assign them. Whence the almost limitless 
range of labor, the slaves being cultivators, butchers, grooms, bodyguards, 
masons, carpenters, and so on. And if it is true that labor depends naturally 
and by social definition on the universal competence of the slave with arms 
of steel, they were in addition available for many other activities. The earlier 
slaves with specialized skills could freely practice regularly those skills which 
they had learned and transmitted to their descendants, but only at a much 
later period. Yet they could not take advantage of these skills to escape their 
servile condition. Insofar as they were in a way comparable to any kind of 
personal property, slaves could neither own nor inherit. Should the case 
arise, they were on the contrary an integral part of the heritage, transferable 
upon the slightest occasion, whether as part of a regular sale or as a free gift 
or whether again because they entered into the composition of some matri¬ 
monial allowance. The monetary value of the slave was invariably fixed at 
the rate of five cows in default of which a thoroughbred horse would suffice. 
Thus, it used to be that to gain a wife's hand one had to be able to give in 
compensation at least three slaves. It is only with the scarcity of slaves that 

The Uprooting 27 

cattle (fifteen cows) became acceptable, * , * At present the Touconleur 
dowry has become completely monetary, , • , Currently it is noted that * . . 
consent of the master is still required for slave marriages, , , , The master 
has priority opition over the children born to the menage, . . , 

In the traditional Touconleur mind there is no distinction between the in¬ 
formally enfranchised (Daccanaa Be Allah) whom the masters have volun¬ 
tarily renounced* and the libertarians (taJBcBoggi) who no longer acknowl¬ 
edge any master and the freedmen who have duly paid up the cost of pur¬ 
chasing their freedom (open to debate between slave and master)- The old 
official price: one horse or five cows—presently it is from five to thirty-five 
thousand francs CFA, payable in regular instalments, , , , 26 

Only the designations have changed, Marronage in African slavery is 
called dogde among the Toucouleurs; the freedman* sootUBe; the driver, 
jagodin. The others are the same. As in Saint-Domingue, the slave is personal 
property which the master may dispose of at his sole convenience as he would 
money or a beast of burden. The rules for enfranchising, including liberty de 
savane, the collective patronymic* the branding and so many other methods* 
seem to be absolutely identical. 

Did Africa herself invent all her tradition of slavery, one of the oldest 
institutions of mankind, in its long trek to civilization? And Europe—did 
she have need of models other than her own centuries of feudalism? 27 

To be remembered are the descriptions of slavery in Gaul and the ac¬ 
counts of the character of feudalism in France with masters and slaves* com¬ 
manders and serfs and the horrors of a regime bringing specifically to mind 
the colonization of Samt-Domingue, 

. , . This territory belongs to a single proprietor and it is as big as the 
land area of a town. The residence of the master is located toward the mid¬ 
dle of the area; at some distance and all around extends a ring of little vil¬ 
lages where a group of slaves belonging to the same master live. Among the 
slaves some are busy with farming* others at various jobs in the manufac¬ 
turing carried on in the area. At the head of this group of slaves there is an 
overseer who has the most absolute power over his subordinates. No slave 
ever worked for himself. He did not even work as a single unit. He was part 
of a group* a stable; each morning with the group he went to whatever part 
of the land was indicated by the chief; the next morning he would go to yet 
another location, He invested his work with neither interest nor person¬ 
ality, Fed and clothed, each day receiving his ration of flour and wine* and 
at the start of each season his clothing, he had nothing to gain or lose. 
Whatever he sowed, another slave reaped. His labor was without recompense 
as it was without love. This slave didn't even enjoy his own hut—he only 
shared a common dwelling; it was not only liberty of which he was deprived, 
but in addition a roof of his own, 23 

These texts suffice to highlight the solid European experience in the 


practice of slavery and to again suggest the prior experience with perpetual 
slavery and its methods which certain captives brought to Saint-Domingue 
could have had in Africa, Whatever the case, and in spite of eventual simi¬ 
larities, it is reasonable to consider that uprooting was one of the causes of 
marronage. This was not the view of Moreau de Saim-Mery, who wrote: 

There is too much analogy* even resemblance, between the natural prod¬ 
ucts of Africa and those of Saint-Domingue to support the idea that the 
sight of these Jailer caused great astonishment among the slaves when they 
debarked. 211 

Saint-Mery, addressing himself to mesologic influences, considered only one 
very limited aspect of the question, thus reaching hasty, superficial con¬ 

Lacking any improvement in his iot as was undeniably the case, trans¬ 
planted and thrown on the distant shores of an unknown country with a dif¬ 
ferent language and different mores, separated from his own, constrained to a 
new rhythm of labor, how could the African not have experienced a sense of 
alienation, the tortures of nostalgia? Animist that he was how could this slave 
not suffer trauma upon finding himself, after the frightful confrontation with 
the high seas, separated from his own, a prisoner to strangers in a strange 
land with rather different flora and fauna and, especially, new language and 
customs? Was it not, however tropical, a land of strange forest sounds, with 
an alien fed to its winds, a land without his old familiar silk cotton trees, his 
friendly streams? 

For these diverse reasons it would appear that uprooting, physical or 
emotional, was one of the causes of marronage. Underlying this reaction on 
the part of the slave was his act of desertion even after he had become crc- 
olizcd. These were flights following his sale to another master. The slave did 
not passively accept being separated from attachments he had made—liaison 
with a woman companion, friends and acquaintances, possible family—and 
from his one personal possession, the subsistence garden enriched with his 
sweat at the price of so much labor. 

How then could one deny the slave, however “deprived of sensibilities” 
he might have been, such a reaction at being separated from his own country, 
thrown upon a foreign land at the whim of strange masters and constrained 
to crushing labor without any other explanation of this frightful destiny than 
the bite of the whip? Whatever may have been repeatedly said about a sup¬ 
posed African tolerance to slavery, about their “good fortune” (sic) in that, 
through transplantation, they had escaped a worse fate than had they remained 
in Africa, one need only in reply to those corrupt legends refer to the slave’s 
long-lasting nostalgia for his native land. The care with which some of them 
pretended to have forgot their own language could only have been a perver¬ 
sion due to slavery, a means of escaping the taunting of creole Africans and 

The Uprooting 29 

a prudent precaution against unduly antagonizing the colonial mentality with 
its prejudice and overriding scorn for Africa. If indeed this psychological 
withdrawal existed—and here we will not contradict Saint-Mery—it remains 
evident that slaves receptive to this mode of general thinking, must have been 

The proof is that in most of the ceremonies which were the most pro¬ 
found, most sincere manifestations of his state of mind,^ it was his gods to 
whom he turned desperately for help- In his distress, it was toward Africa 
that he prayerfully directed his eyes. The anguished desire of all the slaves 
of Saint-Domingue was to “return to Guinea” upon their death. So firm, so 
deeply rooted was this belief in a return that e%'en today in certain Voodoo¬ 
like meetings in the country, the Haitian peasants pray for those of their 
brothers buried back there in Guinea whom they will rejoin in death.® 1 

How could this desperate, gnawing cry not signify that Guinea, the symbol 
of Africa, was, and would remain in their eyes, the image of a paradise 
ardently wished for and completely different from the hell of Saint-Domingue? 

The Harsh Conditions of Labor 


AS REGARDS CONDITIONS of forced labor and the treatment of slaves, 
there was severe legislation that legalized slavery and, parallel with these 
statutes, there were practices indulged by the colonists in disciplining slaves, 
practices that most often aggravated the slave’s situation. 

Throughout the colonial period the conflict between legal prescriptions 
and the reality of colonial practices remained latent, with the latter predomi¬ 
nating. It is clear in fact that the administration had no desire whatsoever to 
impose on slave owners rules too considerate of the slaves. It avoided un¬ 
duly modifying the absolute power of the white master to fully exploit the 
slave, who was considered a “chattel" Most often the administration closed 
its eyes to abuses by masters. After all, it was necessary to continue to insure 
the island’s prosperity, which represented a solid fifth of the royal commerce. 
Colbert and his successors thought only in terms of sugar, indigo, and coffee. 
The fate of the slave was not a consideration with which they burdened 
their minds. 

The Code Noir, or the King's Edict for the Governance and Administra¬ 
tion of Justice and the Policing of the French Islands of America and for the 
Discipline and Commerce in Negroes and Slaves, in the said country was 
signed by the king in March 1685. For more than a century it would be 
the official code of Saint-Domingue for slave discipline, at first very little 
used, but completed, corrected, and adopted by a long series of ordinances 
and rules over the years, all with the same objective: the oppression of the 

What did the Code Noir prescribe with regard to the slave? First, that 
slaves were personal property, that they were nevertheless to be baptized and 
instructed in the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion, exempted from work¬ 
ing on Sundays and holy days from midnight to midnight, that they were 
forbidden to marry without the consent of their masters who then became 
the owners of any resultant issue. 

Masters will be required each week to provide their slaves ten years of 
age and over two pots and a local half-measure of Manioc flour or three 
cassavas each weighing at least two and a half pounds or equivalent items 
with two pounds of fish or other items in proportion and for children from 
the time of weaning to the ages of ten half of the above victuals. 



Masters will be required to supply each slave each year two changes of 
linen and four pounds of material as the master may choose. 

Slaves may not possess anything which is not their masters' property. 

Masters may when they consider their slaves to have merited same, 
chain them and have them beaten with rod or whip. . * * 

That, in broad strokes was the miserable condition of the slave, upon 
the order of King Louis by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre* 
In reality, everything was left to the whim of the masters, and very rarely 
were colonists criticized for mistreating their slaves* 

From the beginning of colonization to just before the Revolution, the 
slave remained at the mercy of the master and constrained to crushing labor, 
most often undernourished and dressed in rags. This typecast of the slave 
is closest to the existing reality, despite exceptions or the relative easing of 
his condition in the large parishes toward the end of the colonial period* 
The slave’s workday on the plantation began with the first streaks of dawn 
and ended at nightfall with a midday break for lunch. It was the general 
rule but one that was waived by the master for a needed increase in pro¬ 
duction, either by doing away with the noon meal or by additional work 
hours at night. During the grinding season, sugar manufacturing in the mills 
was carried on at night 33 even at times requiring teams for transporting cane 
to the mills. In any case, special hands were needed for stoking the fires, 
boiling the sugar, and driving the wagons, in addition to other night workers 
responsible for watering* 

For the plantation and the mill hands 33 the regimen, as can be seen, 
was pitiless* There is no dearth of witnesses to the abuses they suffered. It 
is the colonists who provide the accounts. Rarely would a slave have the 
opportunity to expose abuses* Just on the basis of statements by the masters, 
the record is extensive and overwhelming* Unquestionably the treatment was 
harsh* Pierre de Vaissi&rc has selected the most suggestive of these state¬ 
ments to underline the inhuman nature of the forced labor of the work 
gangs. Writes a Mr. Galiffct in 1702: 

Most of the inhabitants make their slaves work beyond ihe limits of 
human endurance all day long and for the greater part of the night. 

The inhabitants [reports a Mr. Deslandcs] treat them with the greatest 
harshness; they make them work beyond the limit of their strength and 
neglect their nourishment. 

Writing thirty-five years later, an accountant in Cap stated that the lot 
of the slave was to work the entire day. 

Years later, Girod Chantrans would comment on the same inhuman 
workday on the plantations. 

They were all busy digging ditches in a cane field, * * , The sun beamed 

The Harsh Conditions of Labor 33 

directly over their heads, the sweat ran from every pore of their bodies, 
their limbs made leaden by the heat, exhausted by the weight of their picks, 
. * . A doleful silence hung over them, on every face the picture of grief. . . . 
Some commanders armed with long whips dispersed among the workers and 
from time to time would suddenly lash those who due to fatigue appeared 
forced to slacken pace, male or female, young or old, ail indiscrimi¬ 
nately* * . 

A King’s Ordinance, 23 December 1785—a century after the Code Noir 
—vainly attempted to curb some of these abuses: 

All proprietors, procurers or managing overseers are expressly forbid 
to make slaves work on Sundays and Feast Days, His Majesty likewise for¬ 
bids them to make slaves work between noon and 2 p.m. on week days or 
mornings before daybreak or after sunset under pretext of emergency labor 
regardless of what form this might take except at milling time in sugar and 
other factories and in extreme cases of forced harvests which would require 
uninterrupted continuity of labor, , , , 3 * 

If the administrative and military authority also benefittsng from slavery 
managed in respect of its responsibilities to reduce the excesses of the slave 
owner, this occurred only within the large parishes. Indeed! The outlying 
cantons regularly escaped this control, which was regularly relaxed, discern¬ 
ing nothing until at last the scandal became too evident. This self-evident 
complicity thus brought only a derisory amelioration to the great mass of 
plantation and work gang slaves. 

Domestic slaves and certain skilled workers were privileged and, al¬ 
though service animals, had the advantage of a less fatiguing work regimen, 
depending on the whims and habits of their masters: kitchen helpers, ser¬ 
vants, laundresses, hairdressers, house servants, concubines, coachmen, pos¬ 
tillions, valets of every kind. Although they were obedient at all times to the 
slightest wishes of their masters, their task was light and easy only in com¬ 
parison to that of their less fortunate brothers. For them too the day began 
at dawn and their bedtime was dependent on the will of the master. 

The Slave Diet 

IN THE MATTER of diet the slave suffered even greater abuses. The daily 
ration prescribed by the Code Noir, that is, the three cassavas, fish, or salt 
beef, were too often but the subject of dreams. Most often the menu con¬ 
sisted only in a few boiled sweet potatoes and a little water. Malenfant who 
describes this adds: 

At lunch time how often have I not seen staves without even a potato, 
without a thing to cat. This happens on all the sugar plantations when the 
yield from the garden plots is low, then the blacks suffer for months. 

However, in the canefieids as was still the custom, many colonists 
planted peas and potatoes reserved for the overseers and resident managers 
and sometimes corn for the chickens and horses of the whites.® 7 In contrast, 
some colonists resolved the problem of feeding the slave by granting him a 
small plot of land “in areas some distance removed from the plantation or 
in back lands near the woods. 38 During rare hours of respite—moonlit nights, 
at the midday break or on feast days after mass—the slave could plant this 
back area plot in vegetables or fatten an occasional fowl. Of course, at 
harvest time, the overseer, the steward or the driver deducted their share of 
the produce, but the major portion of the crop remained the slave’s. Thus he 
had his own little reserve against inadequate food rations or drought. 

For the colonist, this custom was practical and convenient. It could also 
provide the slave a glimmer of relief. It was worth encouraging. Was it not 
to the colonist’s advantage to feed his slaves as well as he fed his beasts of 
labor in order to extract greater performance from them? Here again there is 
increasing testimony to the minimal concern the masters had for the re¬ 
quired food allotments. In its mandate on slave gardens the Ordinance of 
1785 makes this clear: 

Each slave, male and female, will be provided a small plot of land on 
the estate to be cultivated for their own uses. Proprietors, Agents and Man¬ 
aging Overseers will diligently observe that said slave gardens be kept in good 
condition; independent of said Slave gardens each proprietor, Agent or 
Managing Overseer will plant and maintain provisions necessary to the 
abundant feeding of the work force such that there will always be one-half 



in growing crops, the other in stock; all in conformity with local regulations, 
with the customs of the country and with the varied quality of the soil. In 
any case the produce of these slave gardens mentioned in the preceding 
article shall in no wise enter into consideration for the subsistence of the 
work gang, His Majesty being desirous that the said produce be used entirely 
for the personal use of the slaves. 

These slave gardens were in fact an old custom borrowed from the 
Dutch. From the earliest days of colonization they are described as ranging 
from little gardens around the houses to specially reserved sites “of some 
ten to twelve square feet and separated from each other by a little path.” 3 ® 
These slave gardens were prescribed toward the end of the colonial period 
at the same time that the colonists were obligated to establish and maintain 
subsistence plots (places d vivre ). In July 1789 a new exhortation by Ad¬ 
ministrators Vincent and Bar be de Marbois w f oukl again focus on the estab¬ 
lishment of these produce gardens in conformity with a regulation dating 
from 10 August 1776.*" It had been continued in force from year to year 
because of “the negligence of the colonists”: 

ARTICLE 1—Each inhabitant will he required to plant on his estate, 
independently of the slave garden to wit, in the hills and lands where pota¬ 
toes are difficult to grow, four hundred manioc pits and tw f cnty-fi%'e feet of 
banana trees per slave. If the soil is unsuitable for bananas he will maintain 
five hundred manioc plants unless there he plantings in sweet potatoes, yams, 
rice and corn in which case these will make up for the twenty‘five feet of 
banana trees, so that there will always be in kind or equivalent the five 
hundred manioc plants per slave as before stated. 

ARTICLE 2—On the arable plains and on those lands where potatoes 
and yams arc ordinarily cultivated, the Planter will be responsible for keeping 
under cultivation, independent of the slave gardens, one carreau in sweet 
potatoes and yams for every twenty head of slaves; in addition one hundred 
maniocs and twenty-five feet of banana trees per slave; if the soil is inhos¬ 
pitable to banana trees he will maintain 150 manioc plants per slave; should 
it he the manioc for which the soil is not suitable he will raise sixty feet of 
banana trees per slave; if neither bananas nor manioc can be successfully 
grown then the Planter will cultivate one hectar of sweet potatoes and yams 
per fifteen head of slaves. We recommend that insofar as possible every 
Proprietor, Agent and Overseer give priority to planting manioc inasmuch 
as it keeps better in the soil, requires less water and during dry spells and 
ill fortune it can be of greater help, 

ARTICLE 3—The Planters adjoining neighbors who do not have the 
prescribed quantity of food supply thereby exposing to pillage their neigh¬ 
bors* produce are urged and required to so inform us, either directly or 
through our R e present at ives, so that provisions may be promptly and effec¬ 
tively provided. 

Under Articles 2, 5 and 6, headquarters of the ministries as well as 
Militia Captains, Parish Commandants, and other Militia Officers are charged 

The Slave Diet 37 

with making ail the needed visits for determining if the quantity of provi¬ 
sions prescribed above has been planted by each Resident, to submit a 
written report to the Administrators and in such cases where officers through 
laxity or complacency make unreliable reports they will be severely punished 
as each case may require, in conformity with the King's Ordinance. 

But this comes at the end of the colonial period. Belated concern for the 
feeding of the slave would not wipe out two centuries of misery, deaths and 
desertions caused as much by the tortures of hunger as by the hard labor 
of slavery. An ordinance of the colony's administrators* 1 described such rav¬ 
ages caused “by mortalities and desertions” that, despite the increased ‘*ar- 
rivals” of Africans, there was a constant dearth of field hands. This was in 
the South, always the least favored sector. 

Perhaps slave conditions improved in the West, in Artibonite, in the 
North, and around the big cities—a very fragile hypothesis. Evident in the 
press is the colonists’ interest in exploring new food crops. For example, one 
of them recommends new tubercles, easily grown yams as additions to the 
millet, 42 sweet potatoes, manioc and com, “The Circle of Philadelphians” set 
the vogue for discourses on the feeding and the illnesses of the slaves. Per¬ 
haps they were not mere mental exercises or pious wishes. 

From the end of the American war and during the early years of the 
colony’s high prosperity, the road to riches over the backs of slaves became a 
little less cruel, it is said. Slowly but surely the colonist became creolized. 
Even his cooking came under the influence of the slave’s culinary artistry, 
especially during the long war. Over the years, the masters developed a 
taste for creole broths, hot sauce, groats, plantains, and red beans, which 
cooks and house-servants gradually introduced for mixing with rice, 43 Some 
idea of this can be gleaned from this advertisement of Jeannot, a free black 
grocer called La France, a Cap purveyor who in 1784 offered the following 
“at the end of Anjou and Rohan Streets next to the old slaughterhouse, near 

. . , all sorts of provisions, to w-it, chickens, roosters, capons, ducks, guinea 
hens, turkeys, geese, sheep, suckling and grown pigs, ram goats, milk and 
nanny goats, salt codfish, whitehcarl cabbage, spinach (giroumons), corn, 
red peas, callalou root, domestic rice, lentils, onions, sfiallots, hot sauce, 
green lemons, sweet potatoes, yams, oranges, jellies and pickles of all kinds, 
young lemons, plantains, ginger. . . . 4 * 

It is evident—especially after the American war—that, influenced by 
black cooks, the colonists gave a local flavor to their cuisine. We describe 
this simply to point out that just from local resources it was possible to 
provide ample food for the slave. 

Here and there in the colony, absenteeism of the proprietors was the 
cause of inadequate food supply of the slaves. The agents, managers and 


overseers had other concerns than that of providing food for those without 
whom there would indeed be neither plantation nor prosperity. This aber¬ 
ration is explained by the single preoccupation of the planters’ staffs with 
squeezing administration to the bone so as to reap a higher percent of the 
profit than the masters provided. It appears that these local administrators 
did not hesitate to augment their profit by resorting to all sorts of schemes in 
buying food supplies for the work force* They cut back on the necessary 
quantities and also on quality, it being clear that spoiled flour, wormy peas, 
or dry codfish sold cheaply because of poor quality would assure a greater 
profit margin. For them the essential goal was to secure, by whatever means, 
the greatest profit, all to the detriment of the slave whose muffled plaints 
would never be heard by the planters* Nor was the latters’ persuasion far 
different from that of their agents* Alarmed at times by deaths and deser¬ 
tions, the planters occasionally betrayed in their correspondence a concern 
devoid of any humaneness or identification with the misfortunes of the slave, 
reflecting instead the pragmatic desire that the beast of labor be fattened so 
as to increase his output, 45 

It is a plausible hypothesis that this concern lest the chattel deteriorate 
worked to the advantage of the slave on plantations administered by resident 
owners. It is even sustained occasionally, but certainly not w r iih sufficient 
frequency to permit positive generalization* For unfortunately, planters and 
overseers, by who knows what aberration what derangement of heart and 
mind, shared the same or similar self-interest and thirst for gain. 

To some extent the colonist changed his conception of the slave as simply 
a wild animal only to sec him as a tractable and useful animal even elevating 
him, at times, to the rank of a clever dog* The slave was still enchained, but 
the master began to lighten the bonds and to polish the bars. He was be¬ 
ginning to experience a sense of fear in light of the numerical inferiority of 
the whites and to develop certain protective reflexes. Certainly this was no 
sign of kindness; it reflected, rather, a prudence brought on by a feeling of 
isolation in the midst of evidently approaching trouble* In addition, due to 
some nationalistic quirk underlying the new colonial mentality, the latter felt 
strongly that it was not for the ignorant metropole to tell him whether or 
not his servant, his slave, his personal thing must be sleek and well fed* 

The favors accorded servants and the women in the plantation manors 
tended to spread rapidly. Also, the masters found slaves very expensive and 
becoming more and more so* There was a manpower shortage* It would be¬ 
come worse. Better to treat well those slaves one had by giving them salted 
provisions and biscuits* A little more care was given the matter of import¬ 
ing flour so as to make up for shortage of provisions* 40 Occasionally there 
were accounts of colonists who “spoiled” their slaves* But they were very 
rare, these paterfamilias pictured surrounded by smiling slaves in the bucolic 
setting of canefields or amid the lush foliage of hilltop coffee plantations* In 

The Slave Diet 39 

no way did they present a true picture of Saint-Domingue, which, for the 
slave, was a living hell* 

Girod-Chantrans, an eyewitness during the latter days 4? of colonization 
noted that “There is no domestic animal made to work so hard yet so little 
eared for* ,J The testimony of earlier witnesses is equally telling. That of 
Father Nicolson, in 1770, for example: 

Most of the slaves can be seen languishing in extreme want. . , . Their food 
is indistinguishable from that given the most unclean among animals and it 
is seldom given them when their body requires it. Sometimes their day is 
prolonged as late as ten o'clock at night. 43 

In equally bitter language, another eyewitness has painted the terrible 
reality of the coffee plantations in the hills. 

It is there that cruel neglect and sordid avarice are hidden from every eye; 
there it is that in the bosom of a favoring obscurity all sentiment is stifled by 
the pressing desire to become rich. Thousands of unfortunates made veri¬ 
tably stupid and brutalized by drudgery vegetate there in near nudity. . , . 
It is a considerable walk to the slave gardens and often it is almost sunset 
before the slave, drained by day long labor, has managed to wield the first 
stroke of the hoe in his own behalf. Then before going home he must find 
food for self and family* It is well into the night when he arrives at his hut; 
a frugal meal does not require much preparation; it does take time, however, 
to ready for cooking. A scant few hours remain for sleep, that most de¬ 
manding of needs. At three or four o'clock in the morning the clock or the 
loud snapping of the driver's whip warns him. . . , Then comes harvest time. 
... For the slave there can be no more hope for rest. Each dawn signals 
the beginning of tasks scarcely completed by sunset. * . . He must spend 
evenings hulling coffee beans or emptying wash basins, etc. The first of these 
tasks is fatiguing beyond description. Finally, there is a continuing succession 
of painful jobs which hardly leave the slave time for eating and a brief sleep 
to rest his weary limbs before the new day begins. . . . 4 ® 

In addition to the backbreaking work and insufficiency of food there is 
the paucity of clothes, inadequate housing and cruel punishment meted out 
for the slightest infractions. This subject will be further pursued to demon¬ 
strate that the regime itself in all of its aspects must have been a contribut¬ 
ing cause of marronage. 



WHETHER SLAVE CLOTHING was nonexistent or merely tatters, the 
subject brings to mind the Saint-Domingue colonist whose nieces, newly 
arrived from Nantes, expressed astonishment at seeing slaves walk about 
naked* “Why not,’* he responded, ‘‘also ask us to put clothes on our cows, 
mules and dogs?” 30 

This is no great exaggeration of the colonial mentality whether one is 
examining practices in outlying districts or in the early days of colonization* 
Later on, under the influence of the African house-servants, especially the 
Congolese women, who were enamored of personal ornamentation, there 
would be competition in dress among the slaves* And though it would be 
limited by the meagerness of their resources it would yet be sufficient to stir 
the colonists to restrain this seemingly dangerous form of slave ascension. 

Actually, at the beginning of the colonial period, masters were persuaded 
that the captives, having debarked nude from the slave ships, did not later 
require protection against the hot climate* Nevertheless, they gave the slave 
a minimum of clothing to cover his nudity* Duterlre mentions coarse linen 
knee-breeches and a hat for the men and a fairly short skirt or a quota of 
cloth for the women* Shorts and loincloths were changed on Sundays and 
feast days for colored shorts, a shirt and hat for men, chemise and bleached 
linen skirts for the women* “Having neither shoes nor stockings they all 
went about barefoot*” 51 Children, needless to say, grew up without the slight¬ 
est bit of clothing and were clothed, boys and girls, only when they reached 
working age* 

Father Labat supplements this information as follows: 

Reasonable masters provide two complete changes a year. Others give 

only one outfit for the entire year or else replace only the shorts or skirts; 

others take advantage of their freedom to give only some cloth or yarn. 53 

The Code Noir of 16S5 aimed at fixing the responsibility of colonists 
for clothing the slaves, and in Article 25 decreed that ‘Tvlasters will be re¬ 
quired to supply each slave annually two changes of coarse linen clothing or 
four ells of cloth at the master’s discretion*” A century later, Article 5 of the 
Royal Ordinance of 3 December 1784 33 prescribed as follows: 



Every Negro slave without exception shall be provided two changes of 
clothing per year and for males shall consist of a shirt commonly called 
vareuse, and breeches; for women, a chemise and skirt and a shirt for 

But here again law and practice were in conflict In their descriptions 
eyewitnesses generally use such terms as “tattered rags'* and “wretched 
rags'* when indeed they did not speak of the slaves as being “completely 
naked/* In fact, the field hand harnessed to the soil under an unrelenting 
sun, the slave assigned the demanding job of carrying cane to the mill, or 
stoking the flaming boiler furnaces with bagasse could, for these tasks, be 
well satisfied with these caricatures of clothing, the simple loincloth or cache- 
sexe which from African days they were accustomed to wearing during their 
working day* The same was true for the women engaged in the fatiguing 
work of feeding cane to the mills, 64 

It was quite different on the plains or on the coffee plantations in the 
hills, where many of them were happy to have these rags and snips of cloth¬ 
ing to combat the night coolness and the frost. There were, certainly, more 
humane masters who, to more appropriately clothe their slaves, gave them 
that inadequate minimum required by law. In any case, it was the slave who 
improved his own clothing. Already by 1740 a sharp change in this regard 
could be observed in the large cities and on the neighboring estates. It was 
the African creoles and house-servants who, with their tendency to imitate 
the master’s fashion in dress, devoted their meager resources to clothing 
themselves. There were tailors among them to help in embellishing their 
clothes with colored buttons and with trimming, the insolent luxury of the 
menial condition. 

The other slaves also followed the movement via the produce of their 
gardens. They were tired of the taunts of the creoles and the scorn expressed 
at sight of their “raggedy asses' 1 (bonda a Vair ). At the Sunday market, 
slaves, especially the women, 55 sold fruits, vegetables and fowl to buy a few 
ells of checkered gingham, madras handkerchiefs, a coat, and especially 
shoes, the first sign of a derisory ascent from the level of the beast of labor. 
How many working nights stolen from healing sleep would it cost to make a 
basket, to weave some cord, or cultivate their little garden so as to be able 
to pay for that first pair of shoes? 

The slave women were the first to adopt this line. The creole house- 
servants or the light-skinned concubines, thanks to their master's absent- 
minded kindness and an occasional largesse merited in the service of the 
great house, set the tone for the women of the work gang. The men also 
went to market, contrary to the custom in many African countries, where 
this was left to the women. 

The Congolese were especially conscious of dress. They were enamored 
of creole rings and earrings, enamel bracelets, white cotton skirts and the 

Clothing 43 

ribbons and kerchiefs which adorned their hairdress with that art celebrated 
by Moreau de Saint-Mery. He particularly described the rise in status which 
in the slave world was indicated by the serious quests at the price of so much 
effort, for a certain luxury in dress* Jt was the woman who in the slave gar¬ 
dens planted pot herbs, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins destined for the 
marketplace. It was the woman who accumulated the modest savings of 
those free homesteads or common-law households which w p erc on the increase 
among men and women on neighboring or on the same plantations* 

These gardens which were more accepted, actually encouraged, during 
the last days of colonization, did assure a relative improvement in the slave’s 
lot* They provided the however limited means for the slave to obtain meat, 
salt fish and some desired complement to his miserable diet, and, especially, 
the means to escape from his tatters and rags* These means increased per¬ 
ceptibly—so much so during the last days in Saint-Domingue as to permit 
slaves of both sexes in the large parishes (and this must always be empha¬ 
sized) not only the quest but even a pronounced, excessive appetite for this 
relative luxury that was viewed with so much displeasure by colonists and 
administration alike/*® 

How could the slave avoid being drawn to the example of the free blacks, 
the enfranchised mulattoes and especially the women of that intermediary 
class whose insolent ostentation gave birth to the war of lace and clothing 
that involved the entire colony in an all-out competition? In 1740 and 1779 
the administration attacked the source of this evil, enjoining house slaves 
and freedmen to abstain from affectation in dress* The Ordinance of the 
Administrators of the Windward Islands, dated 4 June 1740, specifically 

ARTICLE 1—That all mulattoes, Indians, of whatever sex, garden slaves, 
and those cultivating the land will henceforth be dressed in conformity with 
the Ordinance of 1685 and in Vitre cloth. 

ARTICLE 2—That all mulattoes, Indians or blacks of both sexes as 
well as slaves serving masters and mistresses as valets or housemaids, or in 
their train shall commonly be dressed in Vitre or Morlaix or the equivalent 
in the master’s or mistress’ old clothes, their necklaces and earrings of col¬ 
ored glass or silver, and common livery and sandals according to the quality 
of said masters and mistresses, with hats, bonnets, turbans and simple bra- 
zilians [foulards] with neither decoration nor lace, nor other adornment * * , 
and may not under any pretext whatever wear gold jewelry or precious stones, 
neither silks, ribbons nor lace* 

ARTICLE 3—That all mulattoes, Indians and slaves, freeborn or en¬ 
franchised blacks of both sexes may dress in white linen, ticking, printed 
cotton, coton tile or other equivalent cheap materials and similar undercloth¬ 
ing with no silk, gilding, ornamentation* or face unless these latter be of 
very low value; hats, shoes and simple coiffures under the same penalties pro¬ 
vided in previous articles including even the loss of liberty in cases of 
recidivism* 57 


A government regulation of 3 February 1779* was aimed at repressing 
the dress of colored people by prohibiting them 

. . * to affect in their clothes, dress or ornaments a reprehensible imitation 
of the dress of white men and women and likewise to wear outwardly any 
item of luxury incompatible with the simplicity of their station and origin, 
under the prescribed penalties, 3 * 

This proscription was as effective as slicing water. Legend has it that the 
rich black and light-skinned women of Cap who were advised to return to 
wearing sandals indulged themselves in the luxury of decorating their toes 
“with diamonds and other precious stones/ 1 ** Even the slave seemed no less 
clever* within the framework of his or her means, at confounding restrictions 
of the authorities since some years later* in 1786, the A A, “with the per¬ 
mission of the General and the Intendant“ proposed as example an evocative 
proclamation by the governor of the neighboring Danish colonies. There, the 
same problem of clothcs-consciousness among freedmen had arisen. This 
document shed considerable light on the identical situation in Saint-Domingue 
and thus merits being reproduced in full. 

Extract from the Saini-Croix Royal Gazette , 17 June 1786: 

ernor-General of the Islands of His Majesty the King of Denmark and of 
Norway, in the West Indies: 

We cannot view with indifference the dangerous effects resulting from 
the extravagant luxury which for some years colored people, free and slaves* 
have been displaying. This disorder is such that a number of women incur 
expenditures that are indecent considering their station, and very dangerous 
under present circumstances. These women spend considerable sums on sump¬ 
tuous clothes at a time w-hen there is incessant talk of the scarcity of cash, 
of the difficulty in collecting debts and of the economy which the colonists 
must observe in their households so as not to contract obligations impossible 
to acquit. Without shame or reserve, mindlessly without modesty these 
women devote themselves to scandalous luxury disdaining to seek employ 
in any useful occupation. 

Instead of earning their living decently by devoting themselves to some 
honest culling they employ every art to obtain from their admirers all that 
they have in ridiculous apparel. With their prodigality they ruin their fam¬ 
ilies, their every ambition only to surpass the luxury of their peers. They 
continuously offend with ostentation and vanity. With them jealousy is not 
a sequence of love; they do not know what love is since they are always 
available to the highest bidder. For most of them jealousy is but the fear of 
seeing their rivals attract the price that prospective clients place on their 

It is not for us to reveal the various deceptions some merchants employ 
in selling these girls luxury items but we are aware of the abuses which 

Clothing 45 

result from the credit extended them and, to prevent the evil caused by the 
colored people's pomp and fantasies, we consider it indispensable to limit 
their luxury by prescribing modest, decent clothing for them. Therefore, by 
Government decree, and until otherwise ordered we command and order: 

1- It is expressly forbidden each and every person of color, free or slave, 
to wear diamond, gold or silver jewelry except in such manner as will 
hereinafter be specified. They are likewise forbidden to wear silk and 
other material enriched with gold or silver, dyed India cloth, cambric, 
muslins, gauze, fine linen and any kind of fine material and bombazine; 
any lace, gold or silver necklace, silk stockings, silk-topped shoes, 
buckles with Strass* ** or other stones; any type of dressed hair with or 
without bonnets and finally any luxury and costly ornament. 

2. Colored people, both free and slave, living on plantations and field 
workers will wear unbleached materials or striped colored cloth; Sun¬ 
days and Feast Days they will be permitted to wear canvas, platille t * * 
calicos and other inexpensive materials. 

3. Those employed in private homes and by businessmen will dress as 
prescribed above. They may in addition wear plain gold rings and 
earrings ungarnished by stones, coral bracelets and necklaces, imitation 
garnets and imitation pearls; on head and neck cotton kerchiefs, aprons 
of the same material, cotton stockings, leather shoes and slippers, plain 
buckles of copper, pinchbeck, tin, and other inferior metals; all types 
of gingham, nankins and calemandes .f On Sundays and holidays they 
may use their finer linen and cotton materials plain or dyed, imported 
calico and silk neckerchiefs. 

4. Slaves are permitted to wear such livery as may be agreeable to their 
masters, as well as old clothes of the masters who are forbidden to 
permit their slaves to abuse this liberty and thus to indulge in luxury 
above their station and to play the elegant; for their thefts and inso¬ 
lence derive from this, especially when they belong to people of high 

5. Freedmen and colored people are authorized to wear not only what is 
prescribed in the preceding for slaves but in addition all woolens, cot¬ 
ton, calico, coarse lace, nationally manufactured silk ribbons, little gold 
crosses and similar ornaments for head, arms and neck; plain with no 
enamel or other enhancement. None of these ornaments may exceed 
the value of ten pieces of eight (3 h, 19 s., 2 d.t.); cambric and coarse 
muslin aprons and cuffs, plain silver buckles and all kinds of old 
clothes known to be previously worn and discarded by Whiles. 

6. Junior Officers, and Sergeants of the free black militia will wear I he 
uniform as it is presently constituted or as it may hereinafter be pre¬ 

7. Those who break the present law will be punished by confiscation of 
their fancy clothing to the profit of the denunciator and, in addition. 

* A new and very popular type of artificial jewelry created by Josef Strasscr. 

** Shiny wool, 
t Very white linen. 


frcedmen found guilty for the first time shall be promenaded through 
the streets by the police and, if a man, exposed in the Spanish mantle, 
if a woman or girl with the dunce cup, and for succeeding infractions 
shall suffer enforced punishment by the Captain of the Free Blacks. 
This punishment shall be immediately decreed without examination be¬ 
yond the fact itself by the Chief of police according to the nature and 
demands of the case. Slaves shall be given fifty lashes for the first of¬ 
fense, the punishment will be increased for successive infractions to 
the number of one hundred lashes. 

8. Although we have no design to deprive free people of color of their 
dances and other similar amusements, we believe it necessary to regulate 
them in order to prevent the disorder which these divertissements as 
they are now practiced do occasion. When the free colored people give 
parties in their quarters they may not invite more than six persons, ex¬ 
clusive of their relatives, unless they have obtained a permit from the 
Captain of the free blacks who will detail names, occupation and char¬ 
acter of the guests. This certificate will then be presented to the Chief 
of police who will extend or refuse permission to give the party. If it 
takes place the Captain of the free blacks will send one or two Junior 
officers of his company to maintain good order, to secure more decency 
and to prevent excesses in food and dress as well as all other contraven¬ 
tion of the present regulation. In the event that some disorder is com¬ 
mitted, the people appointed to prevent this will summon the guard or 
police for aid. The guilty shall be punished according to the nature of 
the case. The man or woman who gave the party will be principally 
responsible for the infractions. 

9. The guards will have the party brought to an end at 11:00 o’clock at 
night and will require the guests to retire quietly and peacefully, each 
to his or her own home. 

10. Colored people cannot, in any case, circumstance, or pretext assemble 
for dancing in the same places where customarily whites hold their 

11. Colored people who contravene what is above prescribed with respect 
to dances and other divertissements shall be punished, for the first in¬ 
fraction by fifty lashes of the whip and by a greater number in cases of 
repeated offense. 

12. Residents and other slave ow'ners are forbidden to permit more than 
ten outside slaves to assemble on the plantation when their work gangs 
amuse themselves during calinda* days and to allow these games to 
extend beyond 8:00 o’clock in the evening under penalty of a fine of 
ten pieces of eight for each hour beyond the fixed time. This fine shall 
be equally divided between the denunciators and the poor. Slaves who 
dare hold gatherings in their huts without permission shall be taken to 
the Fort and given one hundred lashes of the whip; all those found at 
such gatherings shall receive fifty lashes. Insofar as fines are concerned, 
masters shall be personally responsible for infractions their slaves com¬ 
mit. The Captain of the free blacks, the guard, police and all Citizens 
are enjoined to sec to the execution of all contents of the present order 

Clothing 47 

which will be effective beginning this date. Given at St, Croix, May 
1786, under His Majesty's seal and my signature, 

Signed (US,) (R.) H. De Scimmelman , .. Countersigned: Muller. 

We make no comment on this ruling. We have translated it literally. 
With the permission of the General and the Intendant. 


With regard to slave aspirations for decent clothing Moreau de Saint- 
Mery has left us an abundance of suggestive details: 

A shirt and pants, that was it for the slave and yet there are some who 
have only the pants. Shirt and pants are sometimes of the same fabric, at 
other times of different materials. This is already a kind of studied elegance. 
Long and short pants are another combination. But among the field hands 
they are always short, ... To the extent that he is not lazy a slave possesses 
several changes, and for Sundays, Feast Days and red-letter days shirt and 
pants are white. A fairly good hat almost always turned down, a finer doth, 
the additions of a coat and finally, shoes, for the slaves are barefoot. . , . Such 
are the varying degrees encompassed by this luxury. To which, however, it 
must be added that rather expensive kerchiefs on the head, around the neck 
and in his pocket like some young dandy can cost him more than ten French 
iouis. Often his wardrobe is worth four or five times as much. . * , 

For the black woman a chemise, a skirt and handkerchief for head 
cover comprise the usual dress. But to how many variations is it not suscep¬ 
tible, from coarse Vitre linen of Brittany, Brin and ticking, to Flanders and 
lawn linen. . . ! Necklaces of gold-specked or plain garnets as well as gold 
rings are additional ornaments, A fine plain black or white beaver hat or 
one with a silk or gold band or perhaps gold embroidery indicates an even 
higher tone, likewise a corset; finally, after the fashion of the whites, a short 
camisole, then leather mules and sometimes even stockings. 

It is hard to believe the height to which a slave woman’s expenses might 
rise. All her glory and one of her sweetest enjoyments is having quantities 
of linen. ... It is a great pleasure for them to participate in what they call 
the assort intent, that is, on certain church high days a number of them all 
dress exactly alike to go walking or dancing. . , , 

It is not only in the cities that slave ostentation is so apparent. In a 
number of work gangs the same slave who wielded tools or swung the hoe 
during the whole week dresses up to attend church on Sunday or to go to 
market; only with difficulty would they be recognized under their fancy garb. 
The metamorphosis is even more dramatic In the slave woman who has 
donned a muslin skirt and Paliacatc or Madras kerchief. , . 

Malenfant also described the slave penchant 

. . . for buying clothes and dressing with elegant neatness. , . . Slaves who 
have some means are always very properly dressed. . . # The slave prefers 


to present himself well dressed and to do without things of prime necessity 
at home. 61 

Nevertheless, the same author quite quickly brings us back to the truth 
about Saint-Domingue where this improvement in dress is atypical, where 
the nudity and ragged clothing of plantation and factory slaves is general; 

The Code Noir required owners to give each slave a hat and two changes 
of clothing every year. Were one to survey this matter one would be well 
convinced that there arc perhaps two estates in all the colonies where this 
wise taw has been observed. I could even state with certainty that over a 
ten-year period, before the Revolution, no more than three thousand outfits 
were distributed by the planters, . . 

This colonist’s observation might seem scandalous and exaggerated. It 
is, alas, confirmed by a long list of contemporaries in Saint-Domingue: 

What strikes the European upon entering the colony is the sight of a 
great number of naked slaves with no other covering than a cloth around 
the waist. 63 

Nothing is more common than to see them nude," 14 

They vegetate almost nude. 6S 

There is also confirmation in the equally categorical observation of Girod- 
Chantrans w r ho came to the colony in its last days: “Most arc naked or in 
rags,***® Even if the two changes per year had been regularly distributed they 
would not have been sufficient due, it must be added, to common fraud in 
the quality of materials. On this subject a long complaint was addressed to 
Messieurs Luzerne and Marbois, 22 February 1784: 

Ever since the establishment of the colony it has received coarse linens 
of French manufacture under St, George hallmark, cambours, fougcre and 
grosfoit threads. And Virmouticr threads seven, eight and three-quarters. 
These were good materials for clothing slaves, even poor whites. They were 
thick, well woven, the same in the middle of the cloth as at the top, and 
wore well. Today, since the peace of 1783 the national trade sends only sub¬ 
standard cloth and irregular threads. . , . There is no choice but to buy 
these since seldom are any other kind sent here. For the resident owners this 
infamous cheating bears frightening consequences; the nakedness of the 
slaves, especially in the hills, is the greatest of scourges. It causes deadly 
maladies of every kind. The perpetual contrast of the day-long burning sun 
and, in the sunken valleys, the very cool nights with their humid, penetrat¬ 
ing and corrosive dews gives rise to chest inflammation, spasms and swellings 
ending in death; in the end there is a tremendous loss in stave lives due to 
forced nudity. Many more than the two changes prescribed by law, even 

Clothing 49 

six, would not suffice- . . . Thus they are always naked * * , exposed to all 
kinds of illnesses* 

This complaint, transmitted to the minister and receiving not the whisper 
of a response, was aimed at ending such abuses and the constant thievery 
which victimized both the colonist who clothed his slaves and the slaves 
who provided their own clothing, slaves “whose already very brief lifespans 
were even further shortened by this wretched venality/’ 07 

In every era of colonial life we again find the same verification of the 
slave as half-naked and in tatters* This was the lot of the great majority* 
The increasing exceptions were not due to the kindness of masters but to 
the sweat of the slave swept along by the widespread affectation of whites 
and freedmen and by a natural, quite African penchant for ostentation and 

Housing and Hygiene 


WERE THERE, by way of exception, any attempts to improve slave lodgings 
and what, in spite of its shabbiness, we might call the furniture of the 
houses? There is little contemporary evidence and what there is only serves 
to betray how little concern was accorded the idea. However, plantation in¬ 
ventories, some colonial correspondence and advertisements of plantation 
and factory sales do provide descriptions of slave housing, even if in most 
cases furniture is treated as though nonexistent. 

The Affiches America!ties mentions “Slave houses of masonry with three 
large rooms, houses constructed of hardwood (bois incorruptible) 9 wickered, 
mud-walled and roofed with straw/’ There is little variation in the descrip¬ 
tions. The type was almost standard. Only rarely did the straw roofing give 
way to a surplus of shingles for which the master had no other use after 
having finished the great house and the houses reserved for the white func¬ 
tionaries. Saint-Dominguc chroniclers have provided similar descriptions. 

Most of the slave houses are fairly adequate. They arc usually thirteen 
feet long and fifteen wide. If the family is not sufficiently large to require all 
of the space it is divided in two. The houses are roofed with cane leaves, 
reeds or palm leaves. [Father Labat] 

The houses look like dens provided for bears. JFather Charlevoix] 

Each house has three doors and accommodates three families; they are 
roofed with straw, often with shingles. The houses are about thirty feet 
apart. Near each house the blacks plant stakes for tethering their pigs; as 
frequently they plant a tree for their hens to roost in, [Maicnfant] 

Inadequate, unhealthy quarters ,. . [adds Father Nicolsonj. 

Were slave quarters a part of a collective shelter or were they, in African 
fashion, individual ajoupasl 

The answer is uncertain and open to controversy. Apparently, in earliest 
colonial times slaves were housed as in Africa in individual units the con¬ 
struction of which was left to their fancy. Thus African tradition linked up 
with local custom, that is, of the Indians who had always lived in large 
collective houses of reeds and woven straw grouped in villages. With the 
passing of years and in response, it is said, to an aesthetic concern the colo- 



nists took the initiative to add to this generalized practice the construction 
of dwellings called slave houses which were no longer ajoupas though still 
“mud-wallcd and roofed with reeds*” They were collective shelters separated 
by partitions to form a series of houses all part of the same building unit, 
each designed to accommodate a family or two or three slaves grouped ac¬ 
cording to space available in each house* 

As noted, contemporary documentation has left us descriptions of these 
dwellings* Plans and other descriptive details appear in correspondence of 
the era. There is every indication that the practice of erecting these collective 
dwellings increased to the point that this system of construction gave rise 
to the use of prefabricated elements with a framework of Pyrenees oak some¬ 
times eighty feet long, or to some other structural formula as revealed by 
contractors’ notices in the Saint-Domingue press. Furthermore, as if to 
emphasize the increase in the practice of erecting these collective slave 
quarters, inventories of estates up for sale reflect only this kind of housing, 
as if individual ajoupas no longer existed or else were in no way a part of 
the outbuildings of the plantations. 

Whatever the case, in the absence of more complete information we can¬ 
not state that the unsightly structures divided into slave quarters com¬ 
pletely replaced the African-slylc individual dwelling. 

One bit of evidence to the contrary is seen in the same advertisements 
of plantation sales to which wc have previously referred* In fact, in many of 
the advertisements referring to plantations of 100, 150, 200, 300 earreaux 
under cultivation requiring a work force of at least fifty to a hundred slaves 
if not more, we sometimes find in the inventory of property for sale only 
three or four slave houses. This is clearly an inadequate number for accom¬ 
modating a complete work force, since as a general rule each slave dwelling 
accommodated only two or three families. In the course of a close examina¬ 
tion of the Saint-Domingue press of 1764 through 1793, this fact consist¬ 
ently stands out* Sometimes a plantation is described in specifics—one at 
Limonade, for example, consisting of fifty-four earreaux cultivated in bana¬ 
nas and coffee “on which there is only a single slave house,” another larger 
plantation of 144 earreaux on which there was only “one house for the mas¬ 
ter and one for the Negroes,” A 144-carreaux plantation provided only “one 
old house of woven slats covered with straw serving as kitchen and lodging 
for the slaves.” At Torbec a coffee plantation of 265 earreaux had but a 
single slave house “fenced and straw covered, twenty feet long and fifteen 
widc.” a * 

What the data indicate is that on a sugar or coffee plantation the colonist 
consolidated specialized work squads and cadres essential to production in 
collective slave quarters, as, for example, commanders, mill hands, grageurs, 
stokers, pressmen, and so forth* As for the bulk of the slaves—work hands, 
mill loaders, oxcart drivers, and so forth—they continued to live in individ¬ 
ual ajoupas. Often it is this particular type of housing referred to in designa- 

Housing and Hygiene 53 

tions such as “Caesar’s house,” the “house of the Negro Zephir,” the “house 
of the slave Julien.” The colonist adopted the practice of considering as prop¬ 
erty excluded from official inventory these miserable structures built by the 
slaves themselves without directive from the masters. Whether on their 
own or on the initiative of the colonist or a contractor, it was, in the end, 
the slaves who would be responsible for construction of the collective-shelter 
type of housing which in general differed only in meager detail from the 
African use of straw or interlaced roofing, a specialty therefore not of the 
masters but of the slaves. 

We must, in all candor, add that this documented custom* 5 ® of individ¬ 
ual ajoupas was far from being an absolute rule, though it appears with in¬ 
creasing frequency in announcements. As a matter of fact we find many other 
announcements of sales in which the master’s concern for the housing of 
slaves is evident. We find, in April 1765, “a small holding of thirty acres with 
seven slave houses,” and in succeeding years plantations with ‘'suitable hous¬ 
ing” for sixty and eighty blacks; also a plantation of one hundred carrcaux 
with “housing for lodging two hundred slaves;” also “seventy-two carreaux 
plantation, thirty blacks and ten slave houses.” At Pilate there were 180 car¬ 
reaux, “provisions for feeding 150 slaves, and forty slave houses.” 

Still, for all of that period, there is equally clear proof of the indifference 
of masters to personally assuring the living quarters for their slaves. One 
would scarcely imagine that plantations of 260, 225, 205 or 208 carreaux, 
no longer wooded but planted in cane, coffee, and staples, could provide 
housing for the workers needed for cultivation or just for maintenance alone 
by offering, respectively, “six dilapidated slave houses,” “five slave huts,” 
and “three rundown slave houses.” The proof lies in the quite frequent ex¬ 
amples of announcements of this type referring to some plantation “with 
provisions for feeding three hundred slaves and housing for eighty slaves,” 
it being implied that once the eighty skilled workers were lodged, the 220 
unskilled laborers were to secure their own housing. Or, the reference might 
be to the plantation whose proprietor “is willing should the buyer so desire to 
construct slave quarters” nonexistent at the time of sale although this was 
a rather large plantation. Thus the practice of constructing individual ajoupas 
was never eliminated. It would perpetuate itself; it would be handed down to 
the Haitian peasantry who, since Independence, continued to infest rural 
communities with similar straw huts. 

We for our part can envision no other explanation for the existence of a 
widespread practice which could not have been suddenly improvised upon 
the death of colonization to then assert itself so rapidly and so widely. The 
most popular version would have it that the slaves revived the practice of 
individual huts only after the Revolution, thus affirming, on the winds of 
liberty then blowing, their opposition to the discipline of collective housing 
and the barracks ' regimentation” fatal to any spirit of initiative or insubor¬ 
dination against the system imposed by the masters. Thus, following this ver- 


sion, the need for self-emancipation was also expressed through the medium 
of housing* 

The same phenomenon obtained elsewhere; on American plantations, 
for example, where Achiile Murat, a French colonial turned American noted 
that “each black has his house, his chickens, his pigs* * * , Each house has a 
little garden where the slave can plant what he wishes*” 70 In any case, this 
return to African tradition did not appear to have run counter to the ob¬ 
jective of the colonist, which was, after all, to get as rich as possible as 
quickly as possible without pause for any thought of philanthropy. Quite the 
contrary, it should not be difficult to understand that the master quite hap¬ 
pily shed any concern imposed on him by the costly and unrealistic attempt 
to house his slaves in collective quarters* 

All things considered, it is safe to assume that the general practice was 
to leave to the staves, whether creole or African born, the task of building 
their own house* Slaves of the same work gang would work together at the 
task following the African custom of mutual help (coumbite) not only with 
regard to housing but also extended to include the coumbite for individual 
slave gardens to which all, happy to be together singing and dancing, would 
bring helping hands for preparing the soil or for tilling, labors too strenuous 
for one man* Thus the houses became more traditionally African, more and 
more individual rather than houses designed for two or three families. 

These houses were grouped at a comer of the plantation and evenly 
spaced, thus providing for each ajoupa of the little village an area accom¬ 
modating a tiny garden for melons or pumpkins and aromatic herbs for mak¬ 
ing tea, a sort of roofless “gallery” serving as an open-air kitchen, an area for 
small livestock or fowl, and a place for daily ablutions and the bathing of 
children* The area was also used for washing clothes and drying them in the 
sun on a line, and for the cleaning of cooking utensils and accessories* It was 
here that the women performed what was at times truly a ceremony, that is, 
the art of braiding rebellious short strands of hair in a head style varying with 
the ethnic origin of the woman, then anointing it with castor oil* It was out¬ 
side the house at the doorstep really that most of these daily activities, the 
greater part of living, were carried on during such time as was available. The 
house itself served as a depot, a shelter against cool winds and rain, and as a 
place for revivifying sleep. 

The houses were built with four strong posts at the corners and four 
higher forked branches designed to sustain a straw roof* A trellis of reeds was 
placed all around to which, for walls, dried mud or sometimes terra cotta 
brick was applied, then covered over with a daub, which the slaves tried to 
make smooth, shiny, and attractive by the use of whitewash, and sour orange.* 
It is not known at what period the roofs, generally low with edges sloping al¬ 
most to ground level, began to be somewhat elevated permitting the use of 

* The juice mixed in with the whitewash gives a lustre to the coaling* 
f A pap made of ripe plantains and pounded sweet potatoes. 

Housing and Hygiene 55 

galatas , a sort of attic beneath the roof where reserves of flour* casava bread 
and corn for pounding were placed in storage safe from rats. 

Whether low or high-roofed, the houses w'ere never adequately ventilated. 
Light and air entered through the usual one opening, the entry door, some 
five feet high. There were no windows. Should there be one, the slave would 
wall it in, sealing the smallest interstices in order to keep out cold winds and 
to protect himself against skulking thieves ferreting about preliminary to at¬ 
tempting some thievery. Also, it was necessary to prevent the invasion of evil 
spirits walking about at night in search of easy prey, those not under the pro¬ 
tection of their “guardian angels'’ during sleep. 

In Saint-Domingue we find none of the conical-roofed, round houses re¬ 
flecting the instructive tradition inherited by the Haitian peasant and specific 
to certain “nations’ 1 —Guineans from Foutah or from the Mount Nimba 
area, for example. Here and there in the country areas in the south of Haiti 
could be found—and these were very rare exceptions—the African-type straw 
hut artistic in architecture, functional and in good taste. Apparently the slave 
houses were usually square with straw roof, mud-walled, built on beaten land 
and made firm with use. It was the slave himself who by degrees adapted this 
housing style in conformity with his own customs. Besides, the colonist thus 
shrugged off concern for lodging the slaves, a concern that nevertheless in¬ 
truded itself. He required the houses to be placed far from the whites, not too 
far away lest reasonable control be jeopardized, but downwind “so as to avoid 
unpleasant odors,” n especially that of the Angolans who according to the 
whites “smelt so much like he-goats.” 72 The houses were grouped, those of 
the same family being built around a single large court with about ten feet 
between houses for the comfort of all and to reduce the risk of “fires facili¬ 
tated by the straw.” 

The narrow, ill-ventilated interior contained furniture, wearing apparel, 
such foodstuffs as there were, several goatskin containers or calabashes, or 
an earthen jug with the supply of drinking water* and a bed or some facsimile 
thereof. The slave slept in this one little room with his wife and children or 
with other slaves, sharing his adversity and becoming his own family. The first 
meetings among these “shipmates” linked from then on for better or worse 
would date from their crossing on the same slave vessel. 

When it was not beaten earth on which the slave slept, wrapped in a few 
“miserable rags” or wearing the shreds of the work garment, the slave’s bed 
was usually either a cowskin or a rattan matting which he or she made or, in 
the South, the “leaves of the palm cabbage serving both as covering and 
bed.” 13 

Malcnfant stated that “most infant deaths are due to their sleeping naked 
at nights on the ground.” 74 Some slaves made mattings of corn or cane leaves. 
When opportunity afforded, the more gifted made use of boards and stakes to 
construct a sort of elevated footing free of the host of vermin moving about 
the soil and there, over a latticework, placed a thick mattress of leaves, moss, 


and old rags on which they could escape the discomfort of the rugged ground. 
More than the tamped earth or the matting, this parody of a bed, ‘‘frightening 
to look at,” 76 in any case made it possible for the slave to have a restful sleep 
free of aches and pain. 

Neither the Code Noir nor any other legislation on the maintenance and 
discipline of slaves mandated a bed. In this regard also the slaves tried to 
improve their lot. It was up to them alone to devise the complement of items 
needed for personal grooming* cooking, lighting and hygiene. The wretched 
yet inspired assortment of household items which thus they put together by 
their own efforts included calabashes, couis, water skins and dishes for drink¬ 
ing and eating, spoons called sicayes from the wild calabash tree, sometimes 
home made straw chairs, bundled plant stems in lieu of a wooden-handled 
broom, a big water jug; earthenware or terra cotta pitchers, a patched-up 
barrel, 76 a makeshift tripod of stones on which they would place deadwood 
for roasting sweet potatoes or corn, for perhaps preparing cassava bread or 
some scraps of salt fish; pitchpine or other resinous wood for torch-lighting 
the house, and dried cow dung for smoking out mosquitoes and other insects 
were other items. 

“The most adroit,” noted Descourtilz, “decorate their house utensils with 
varying designs. Without the aid of compass or ruler they engrave their cala¬ 
bash drinking bowls with highly styled designs of pleasing proportions,” 77 
Other slaves equally skilled knew how to weave baskets or catch-all bags, 
adding these to the furnishings along with matting improvised from banana 
leaves, fiber nets, and rudimentary house and table linen. 

Actually, it was in the waning days of colonization—an era atop a wave 
of luxury from which they derived some crumbs—that a few slaves began to 
acquire practice in these last-mentioned skills. These acquisitions do not pro¬ 
vide a picture of the situation of the mass of slaves. Exceptions hardly ever 
found outside of the large parishes, they serve to point up the irresistible need 
of the slaves to raise themselves above the level of beasts of burden to a level 
of dignity such as the master's or closer to that of the house slave. 

The African in Samt-Domingue knowingly indulged a propensity for the 
vanities and niceties of table and household, for dress and ostentation. Despite 
its limitations this was a natural, even blatant, luxury among the Congos and 
Aradas, for example. Especially among the women, A propensity for comfort 
and aesthetics, the need to parade for self-display, to invite the envy of neigh¬ 
bors represented a virtue and a complex handed down to the Haitian peasant. 
Despite a traditional poverty and by bleeding herself w r hite, she managed, be¬ 
fore the days of American occupation, to possess embroidered cloth, fine lin¬ 
gerie, flowered glasses, mahogany platters, glazed jars, a “bench” for jugs; 
silverplated forks and spoons, colored plates and dishes beautifully glazed, or 
enameled wash basins, urinals and night pails. 

Slaves drawn into the pursuit of luxury within the very narrow framework 
of their slender means spent the greater part of the income from their indi- 

Housing and Hygiene 57 

vidual gardens on these acquisitions. This compensated for the callous indif¬ 
ference of the colonist who, with respect to food, housing, clothing or house 
furnishings in effect said to the slave, ''Don't look to me, you're on your own,” 
With the exception of the assimilated creole, slaves ate in the African 
fashion out of a common ntess bowl, each in turn using a hand to extract 
portions of moussa [a semi-liquid dish of millet or corn] or of tum-tum *— 
boiled ripe plantains and mashed sweet potatoes, 73 a bit of meat or fish on 
such fortunate days as these were available. They ate with their fingers, using 
a calabash spoon as neded. The meal was interlaced with long discussions in 
the traditional African love for palaver and was taken round the fire where 
the millet or corn was cooking in front of the doorway or inside the house 
itself so as to avoid the heat of the sun, rain, evening dews or the coolness of 
the night 

Upon arising in the morning the slave washed his face, rinsed his mouth, 
then cleaned his teeth with a vegetal brush- He or she could not count on 
having a more thorough wash up unless he found a nearby irrigation ditch 
or lived close to a river, cofferdam, or a little plantation dam; or when he 
could draw upon a reserve of rainwater or use a well he had dug* 73 To 
this end they took advantage of their days off while looking forward to a 
lengthy bath in a river or elsewhere. They regularly practiced this kind of per¬ 
sonal hygiene. Quite properly and frequently, Moreau de Saint-M^ry under* 
scored this desire for cleanliness on the part of Saint-Domingue Africans, espe¬ 
cially the women. 

When they have finished eating each takes a very large drink of water, the 
only one of the meal* . * . They wash their hands and particularly the mouth 
with extreme care. The women especially do this with great care. It is rather 
common to see them carrying at the end of a soapy vine a small piece of 
wood which they first crush with their teeth so as to form- a sort of brush 
with which several times during the day they clean their teeth not always as 
sound, however, as they are white. 

Body cfcanliness is characteristic of blacks, especially the women. They 
are always in search of water and even when they are reduced to the point 
of having no clean garments they regularly take a plunging bath in a lively 
running stream unless they arc reduced to making do with rainwater they 
have collected or drawn from a well, 80 

Some owners provided medication and sick care for their work crews, 
sometimes small plantation infirmaries for accident cases or emergency medi¬ 
cal services* 

The colonist never concerned himself with either bath or “commodes/’ 
For washing up, the slave used litle wooden tubs into which he hand-poured 
water, splashing his face, scrubbing arms and armpits and washing his feet 
and other parts of the body. 

As for latrines, no printed document or manuscript of the colonial period 


places them next to the slave houses. Debien noted that he found one instance 
of a latrine near slave quarters, although there was no indication if it was 
placed there so as to avoid having the odor near the big house. In any case 
there is no indication whether it was designed for slave use or rather for the 
white petty clerks so as to relieve the latter of necessity to use the toilets, 
the night commodes and the chamberpots of the masters. 

Constrained to service their needs, like beasts, under the open sky the 
slaves probably had to resort to their African customs—holes some eight to 
nineteen feet deep covered over with planks against odors and the invasion 
of rainwater and surrounded by a sort of straw or mud hut. From time to 
time quick lime was thrown into the ditch and when full it was covered over 
and another dug close by. In Africa this type of latrine still exists, brought to 
perfection in style of construction and comfort, very much like the wooden 
cases with open scats that the modern water closet has not made obsolete in 
present-day Haiti except in certain quarters in some large cities. 

Toward the close of the colonial period there was evident some slight 
hope of providing health care for slaves but limited strictly to Cap and to 
Port-au-Prince, Two private establishments which authorized treatment and 
hospitalization for Africans were created at Cap, In Port-au-Prince, Mr. Cha- 
bannes, formerly a surgeon and assistant medical officer of the Paris hospitals, 

continues to take into his sanitarium blacks afTected with yaws or other 
symptoms of venereal diseases as well as crabes* skin eruptions, ulcers, 
w'ounds, eta, . » , whom he will keep until completely cured, a guarantee on 
condition of payment of 264 pounds per slave, 48 Provence Street, Port-au- 
Prince. 81 

In the same city surgeon Robert opened a sanatarium at Bel-Air, boasting 
“the beauty of its limitless vistas over the city, harbor, sea and hills and 
the clean, cool air of this incomparable site. There are three pavillions for 
whites at two gourdes, one gourde, and two gourdines daily." People of color 
and slaves were admitted but only with great repugnance: 

As for colored people and negro slaves the minimal care they generally 
receive when they are sick is completely inimical to the healthfulness of a 
hospital. Hence the wards available to them are exactly like the third ward 
for whites. Upon arrival, the negro slave is divested of his or her rags, given 
a hospital gown, a straw pallet, mattress and bed linen, and the treatment re¬ 
ceived in no way differs from that given white people. The charge is two 
gourdins per day. 04 

There was then, in the surrounding barbarity, a faint glimmer of kindness 
toward a few privileged slaves during the last days and only in two cities. 

In terms of housing and health as it was with nutrition and clothing, the 
colonist exhibited no humane feeling toward the slave. All in all, he appears 
to have focussed more attention on the pasturing of cattle and mules, on 
stables for horses and on veterinary care for cattle. 

Cruelty of the Masters 

WE HAVE NOT YET touched on the terrible suffering of the slave after his 
capture in Africa en route to the Saint-Dominguc marts or the terrible 
punishment to which he was exposed from that time on throughout his life— 
the lash, chains, mutilation and torture—a sadism scarcely to be imagined. 

Here again the horror of these daily crimes of the colonists and the 
slave merchants is revealed not by the slave who had scant opportunity to 
complain of the cruelties he endured, but by the statements and affidavits 
of administrators, slave traders and the colonists themselves. 

We shudder at the thought that these extraordinary confessions of the 
white masters may have masked a tragedy perhaps even more bloody and 
inhumane than that which with such rare cynicism and still chilling terror 
was openly admitted. Whatever the case, the act of accusation by the execu¬ 
tioners themselves forbids contradiction of its authencity. 

Besides, for a long time cruelty and torture, like some last vestige of 
Middle Ages barbarity, remained current practice in Europe. One needs 
only recall the typical punishments for witchcraft and the persecutions of the 
Inquisition or else visit torture chambers still extant here and there in Europe 
in feudal castles of a recent past. 

To repeat, slavery existed in Africa. It should surprise no one that mer¬ 
chants were the main suppliers for slaves. In addition, Moorish agents spe¬ 
cialized in this field, as well as petty kings and chieftains who held packs 
of slaves cither serfs by birth, prisoners under common law (sorcerers, 
thieves, malefactors) or hostages and prisoners kept as spoils of internal 
wars. There were also odd lots of captives, men, women, old people, chil¬ 
dren, princes, farmers, chiefs or valets abducted in merciless, organized in¬ 
cursions and raids upon coastal villages and even, when these latter were suf¬ 
ficiently despoiled of their bois d’ebhie* upon villages in the interior. Du- 
tertre tells of fathers who sold themselves or their own children. Sudanese 
women slaves were fed and kept by North African lords for breeding children 
who, at the age of seven, were sold to slave traders. 83 

Peytraud published an impressive list of kings and kinglets who for some 
eau-de-vie, cotton cloth, salt, arms and powder sold slaves on the Senegal 

* Slaves in their prime. 



and Gambia rivers, in Gold Coast and on the Sierra Leone coast, in the Arada 
and the Congo kingdoms and on the Angola coast* It was with these large 
suppliers that the Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Danish and Dutch 
slave traders joined whenever they themselves did not organize the hunts with 
a well-trained pack of their own agents, brokers and beaters, actual dogs 
trained to hunt down men. 

Thus, coastal towns and villages were depopulated or else abandoned 
by the inhabitants who were then pursued into the very interior of the vast 
continent. In his remarkable History of Africa, Robert Comevin tells of 
captives who despite the weight of chains had to cover more than a thousand 
kilometers on foot. 

To make escape impossible captives were chained to each other by foot 
with a forked yoke around the neck, a pillory' reinforced with heavy wooden 
pieces. Then began the long trek by night and day to the wharves. Sometimes 
these caravans moved along for a week or more with only brief halts, loud 
with the cries of terrified men, women and children torn from their people 
and drained by hunger and thirst, led to their unknown destiny over long 
and difficult trails under the constant menace of the most savage tortures. 
Many, exhausted by these long marches died en route. Their bodies were 
abandoned to the wild beasts. Others died amidst the horror of baracoons, 
where these human cattle aw-aited sale to slave-ship captains. Actually, bara- 
cooiis, or “trunks,” into which captives were packed were huge sheds de¬ 
scribed as being “veritable cells of putrefaction,” locked day and night and 
reeking with the stink of excrement. 

After examination of the slave and complete inspection of his limbs 
and organs, sales were by lot and conducted amid much palavering, long 
discussions and sharp bargaining. Inspections went so far as to include the 
slave’s organs. There axe even recorded cases of merchants who “sucked the 
chin” of the slave, so as to divine by their sweat whether or not they were 
in good health, 84 In general, merchants who were stuck with unsold rejects 
got rid of them within hours cither by killing them or throwing them into 
the sea. This was their special way of expressing dissatisfaction at not hav¬ 
ing turned a profit. 

Once fully loaded, the ship got under way. The slaves w r ere heaped 
in the bottom of the hold [states an English slaver]: 

On board, these unfortunates are chained to each other hand and foot 
and so closely pressed there is no more than a foot and a half for each 
individual. Packed in like herrings in a barrel they generate putrefying dis¬ 
eases and all kinds of dangerous afflictions such that when the guards make 
morning rounds they have to remove a number of dead bodies and separate 
their carcasses from the bodies of the unfortunate companions to whom 
they were linked by chains. 

Peytraud goes on to say: 

Cruelty of the Masters 61 

The slaves are chained right leg to right leg and left to left* The iron 
securing the leg is almost semi-circular in shape; each end is pierced with a 
hole through which passes a bar that links the various rings that clasp the 
legs of one line of blacks in the compartment where they are locked in at 
night, thus it would be impossible for them to come to a standing position* 

There are descriptions of cargo overloads that, because of scarcity of 
space, prevented the slaves from “lying on their backs” or standing* Usually 
the crossing to Saint-Domingue lasted forty days, sometimes three months* 
The estimate is that, whether for lack of food and drink or because of hav¬ 
ing to live in the heat and stench of the hold, conditions beyond human en¬ 
durance, an estimated 25 percent did not survive the long voyage. 1 * Others 
mounted revolts such times as they were permitted on deck for a breath of 
air* These rebels were punished by being hung head down from the rigging 
until dead or else thrashed* Some refused all food and succumbed to grief 
after long wasting away or, taking advantage of the momentary absence of a 
guard, threw themselves overboard, at last putting an end to their deep an¬ 
guish* And the voyage continued, interminably, punctuated with the stifled 
cries of captives in the endless night of those ‘‘floating prisons,” those “mov¬ 
ing tombs.” 

Within these sea-tossed, moving tombs, arms and legs lacerated by the 
irons, unable to sec daylight, piled on top of each other, incapable of mov¬ 
ing about, glued to the lattice, their tongues hanging out as they struggled 
for a breath of air, the slaves shared this unimaginable calvary which even 
now evokes fear and horror. 

For the voyage the slaver estimated ten tons of provisions, millet, rice, 
biscuit for each hundred blacks fed twice daily and provided a drink of 
water between noon and one o’clock at a rate of one barrel of water per head 
for the crossing* 

Pierre de Vaissi&re tells of a slave captain who, slowed by contrary 
winds, decided to kill some of his slaves to feed them to the survivors.* 1 

There is considerable documentation of the hellish life aboard slave 
ships and even of the approved torture which the slightest indiscretion or 
sign of insubordination might bring. For example: arms and legs broken by 
iron bars, slaves forced to cat the heart, liver and entrails of their strangled 
companions, captives cut up and distributed in small pieces, women whipped 
until the blood flowed and slashed to the bone with knives, slaves strangled 
and hanged. 

Certainly such terrible punishment coupled with the precaution taken 
aboard ships must have reduced the number of mutinies, or else many slavers 
very discreet about their shameful traffic must have often omitted relating in¬ 
cidents of slave revolts during the crossing. In his manuscript notes Saint- 
Mery echoed this ; 


On some ships the blacks mutiny; the result is a frightful carnage. 
There arc blacks who despite handcuffs and irons that swell their limbs still 
manage to revolt and to secure the whites with these very same manacles, 
There are known cases of blacks allowing themselves to die of hunger and 
thirst after having been beaten hack in an attempted revolt. 51 

Pcytraud, upon whom we have so often leaned for this summary evoca¬ 
tion of the slave trade, published a curious “Regulations'* intended for slave 
ships, a sort of Black Code which here again opened the door to abuses and 
crimes committed on the high seas, the extent of which can well be con* 

Sailors are forbidden to strike the blacks who are usually kept under 
surveillance by an intelligent, trusty black wearing culottes and a jacket and 
fed sailor’s fare. 

If during the night disputes arise , . . self-restraint will be exercised in 
having the quartermasters impose silence. . - . Whites must not move in 
among the blacks who could then choke them and seize the opportunity to 

Mornings and nights or before and after dinner they will be made to 
dance so as to prevent them from becoming melancholy* 

Every morning, on deck, slaves will be made to wash their mouths with 
water and vinegar and with lemon juice, if time permits. And time permit¬ 
ting they will be allowed to bathe two or three times a week. 

Fortnightly or every three weeks, the heads and all other hairy parts of 
the slave's body are to be shaved. This will make them happy inasmuch as 
it is a custom in their countries. You will also have their fingernails and 
toenails clipped. 

It is customary to avoid vermin by keeping the captives nude. The 
women alone arc to be given a quarter of an ctl to cover their nakedness 
and a bit of linen for body needs. 50 

Finally, let us add that the cargo was reckoned in tons, three blacks being 
the equivalent of a ton. Saint-Dominguc papers listed weekly slave ship ar¬ 
rivals at various ports of the colony. Thus there are available almost com¬ 
plete data on arrivals during the last days of colonization and even here and 
there, references on importations since the introduction of Africans in Saint- 
Domingue. While in 1716 four thousand Africans were imported, the figure 
from 1787 rose to about forty thousand per year. We will return in more 
detail to the slave trade that so enriched the shipowners of Nantes, Lc Havre, 
La Rochelle and other French ports. Generally, according to A ffiches Amir - 
icaines, 70 to 75 percent of the cargoes ranging from 150 to 850 blacks 
came through Saint-Dominguc. 

Depending on the periods of the colonial era, sales were conducted cither 
aboard slave vessels or at slave markets. To prevent speculating it was early 
made illegal to sell complete shipments, a practice which had shut out the 

Cruelty of the Masters 63 

poor whites and, through speculation among retailers, raised the price of 
the bois d’ebene to an exaggerated figure. Following the health inspection, 
the disinfecting of slaves*—in colonial terms “perfuming the vessel”—and 
the distribution of gifts in specie or in slaves to officials, doctors and sur¬ 
geons, the slaves debarked, haphazardly dressed or naked, often unable to 
walk, dragging themselves toward the slave mart where colonial proprietors 
were already assembled for the bidding. 

If the crossing had been a difficult one, some slavers subjected the slaves 
to a stay in “rehabilitation areas” (savanes de rafratchissement ) and after a 
cure of rest and overfeeding, which improved the captives’ condition, they 
were rubbed with palm oil to suggest the glow of health, a deception, fol¬ 
lowed with running and limbering-up exercises.* 0 

Slaves were bought by the piece or by assorted lot after buyers had ex¬ 
amined their musculature, verified their suppleness by having them run, 
checked their strength (even their virility), inspected their mouths and 
counted teeth, and finally evaluated their sturdiness and their courage. 31 Each 
colonist claimed his lot. There then unfolded the tragic spectacle of mother 
separated from son, husband from wife—never again to see each other. Re¬ 
jects, the puny, fragile or sickly, were sold by the ton, turned over to reli¬ 
gious missions as gifts, or quite simply thrown into the sea, for there was 
never any question of the slaver encumbering the return voyage with unsold 

Herded by drivers armed with horsewhips and racked with the grief of 
separations, the newly purchased slaves moved along the roads to the plan¬ 
tations. During the first days after arrival on the plantation, slaves were 
again refreshed with hot infusions, baths and washing. They were purged, 
disinfected and sometimes given clothes and baptized. They were then 
assigned to secondary work gangs to be broken in and acclimated to the 
surroundings. Then, with the hot iron, they were branded on chest or breast 
with the initials of their master and from then on grouped with the four- 
legged plantation animals, the castrated bullocks and mules and, like them, 
carried henceforth on the inventory of the master’s estate. 

In a subsequent analysis of Maroon descriptions we will underscore the 
diversity of ships 1 brands, and especially those of the work gangs which 
were the usual identification marks of new slaves, even creoles. Just as 
branding was sometimes used to punish creole slaves turned Maroon, so, too, 
a certain Mr. Caradeux would not hesitate to use the brand as punishment 
to mark his runaway slaves in a special way. 

Henceforth the slave’s existence would be fixed under the sign of the 
lash. For the slightest infraction he was “carved” for the sadistic pleasure 
of a driver. The term was colonial, an apt reminder that a portion of the 
skin was tom away by each whiplash and that, as these increased, they 
carved and deepened painful furrows in the lacerated flesh, A slave correctly 
thrashed could neither walk nor sit for several weeks. Man or woman, the 


slave about to be whipped was stripped naked and the work gang was in¬ 
vited to witness the punishment thus adding humiliation to physical pain. 
Usually the whip consisted of knotted cords, cutting vines or a bull’s penis 
(known as a rigoise)* ** Few were the colonists who did not resort to the 
whip. It was general practice, legalized by the king. Even the clergy had no 
scruples about “slicing” their slaves. Father Labat, with his customary off* 
handedness and ingenuous verve, described the punishment he had had ad- 
minishered to a slave accused of sorcery, that is, of practicing his native 

I had the witch tied up and given about three hundred lashes which 
burned him from shoulders to knees. * * . He screamed like a madman. . . * 
After having him washed with a peppery solution I had him placed in irons. 

Thus, in addition to a large number of restrictions protective of the 
slave, the Code Noir established punishments permitted the masters. It pro¬ 
vided a range of penalties including that of death for a slave who struck his 
master or freedmen, or who committed “qualified thefts.”* * Thefts of farm 
animals, vegetables, food supplies drew a lesser penalty, the slave being sub¬ 
ject to a whipping and to being marked with a fleur-de-lys. A fugitive absent 
one month had his ears cut off and the fleur-de-lys stamped on his shoulder. 
If a repeater for another month he could have his hamstrings cut 02 and the 
mark of the fleur-dc-Iys on the other shoulder. For a third offense the pen¬ 
alty was death. 

In particular. Article 42 of the Code gave masters a free hand by decree¬ 
ing that “masters likewise may, when they believe their slaves merit it, have 
them chained and beaten with rods,” The Code did not limit the number of 
lashes, thus opening the door to abuses of the whip which became current 
colonial practice. It is said that the Ordinance of 3 December 1784 enacted a 
century later to curtail the abuses considerably improved the slave’s lot. 
Even so, the ordinance authorized fifty lashes of the whip. 


ARTICLE II—The Edicts of March 1685 and 1724 will be carried out 
as prescribed: consequently His Majesty has promulgated and decrees most 
explicit restraints and prohibitions under penalties described hereinafter 
against all Proprietors, Agents, and Managing Assistants treating slaves in¬ 
humanely by giving them more than fifty lashes of the whip, striking them 
with sticks or causing them to suffer death from various causes.* 5 

Like the preceding one, the new regulation established heavy fines, de¬ 
portation to France, even the death penalty for masters w r ho mutilate their 
slaves or “have them killed on Ihcir own authority.” These threats intimi- 

* A formidable weapon when stretched and dried. In common use in some Caribbean 
islands as late as the end of the 19th century. 

** More serious thefts, for example stealing a boat: a means of escaping the island. 

Cruelty of the Masters 65 

dated scarcely anyone, and at no time did masters believe themselves de¬ 
prived of life and death power over their slaves. Actually, in addition to 
royal edicts and ordinances there was parallel and official legislation, that 
of the ministry, covering all infractions by colonists and practically guaran¬ 
teeing them immunity. Local authorities were invited by the Minister himself 
never to uphold the slave on such rare occasions when the latter dared com¬ 
plain or found an ear receptive to his expose of cruelties he had suffered. 
Besides, in these cases, in return for such a bold, difficult and, after all, 
useless initiative, he ran the risk of terrible reprisals. The fact is that through¬ 
out the colonial period there were letters from the office of the ministry in 
support of this state of affairs, all with the same objective: 

If it is necessary to repress abuses of their authority committed by in¬ 
humane masters it is also extremely important to do nothing which might 
move the slaves to disregard authority and to stray beyond the limits of 
dependence and submission where they belong. 

ft is necessary to keep slaves in the state of dependence in which they 
belong and to do nothing that might give them cause to pull themselves out 
of it 

At the same time care must be taken to do nothing against the masters 
which might lessen slave respect for them. 

If some masters misuse their power it is essential that by reprimanding 
them secretly the slaves be always led to believe that with respect to their 
persons masters can do no wrong. 

It would be dangerous to provide blacks the spectacle of a master pun¬ 
ished for violations against his slave** 4 

Covered by such a policy, Saint-Martin TArada could with impunity 
assassinate two hundred of his slaves, Caradeux, likewise, bury slaves alive, 
and Garesche keep a slave in chains for twenty-five years; this Malenfant 
saw with his own eyes as did all the people “over sixty years of age 1 ’ who 
lived in the Boucassin quarter. Without fear of punishment, Martin and 
Lejeune assisted by a surgeon executioner burned the feet, legs and thighs 
of a large number of slaves with resinous pine torches, and the colonist 
lawyer for the Vaudreuil-Duras plantation habitually moved about his plan¬ 
tation w'ith hammer and nails for hanging from a tree by the ear those of 
his slaves guilty of the slightest infraction. All of these masters were like 
competitors vying to snatch the palm from their sinister rivals in the macabre 
list of executioners: Chaperon, Latoisson-Laboule, Flonc, Boc, Jean-Baptiste 
Lapointe and the cruel overseer Fassi from Plantation Foueaud in Boucassin. 

However unthinkable these cruelties they are authentic, having been 
revealed not by the slave but by their white masters themselves. Let us add 
that, in spite of the profusion of details accompanying these revelations, the 
veil has scarcely been lifted on these cruel practices, almost all records of 
this type having been, as was customary, burned every five years. Let us 
add too that even toward the end of the colonial period this barbarity was 


still general practice in the cities and on the plains and hills, if we consider 
a statement that must be taken as truthful, that of Vincent and the honest 
Barbe de Marbois, administrators of Saint-Domingue, At the time of the 
trial and acquittal of Lejeunc the Torturer they wrote: “There are entire 
sections where the old barbarity still persists in full force, the details of 
which make one shiver with horror,” 

In spite of the pathetic appeal to reason by responsible members of the 
colony, the torturers of course were neither “hanged in effigy,” nor “secretly 
blamed and repressed,” The savage whipping and torturing of slaves con¬ 
tinued, as if it were not already enough to weigh them down to the death 
with hard labor without concern for their clothing and housing or even for 
providing them food. 

Supported by absolutely authentic documents, Pierre de Vaissi&re, at 
his death curator of the Paris National Archives, called to mind in his pas¬ 
sionate re-creation of Saint-Domingue, the cynical refinements in cruelty 
which were the slaves* lot. It is a long list of common punishments, which 
we have tried to complete with additions taken from several other historians, 
in an attempt to present an inventory of known tortures in a concise form, 
stripped of even more horrifying details. 

Beating a slave with a whip, knotted tails, cutting vines or a bull’s penis 

Torture on the rack 

Tying him or her to four stakes 

The hammock or hanging by the four limbs 

BrimbaUe , or hanging by the wrists 

Solitary confinement and deprivation of rest days 

The iron necklace and muzzle coated with pepper 

Hanging by a nailed ear 

Cutting off an car 

Iron necklace with chains 

Hand and foot irons 

The boise t a piece of wood attached to neck or feet 

Iron mask, making it impossible to eat cane 

Torture of the bar enclosing both legs 

Iron collar with one or more prongs 

Chains of varying weight impeding or preventing walking 

Men or women chained together 3 * 

This list includes current punishments, the best known of which—the 
lash and the severed ear—were authorized by the Code Noir. But the colonists 
invented an infinite number of harsher punishments, sadistic beyond imagi¬ 
nation, These extraordinary tortures, as is known, were not the general rule. 
We know too, that none of these is imaginary, that each relates to a specific, 
verified case of indisputable authenticity. 

Cruelty of the Masters 67 

Exceptional Tortures 

Punishment by the whip, the wounds aggravated by hot embers, pepper, 
salt, lemon juice, cinders, aloes or quick lime 

Variations of torture by fire: slaves thrown alive into ovens or suspended 
over flames like so much meat on a spit, fire lighted under the belly 

Burning of legs, thighs and feet by pine torches, the application of red 
hot iron slats to the soles of the feet, ankles and insteps 
Burning of sexual organs with firebrands 

Stripping and stuffing blacks anally with gunpowder which is then set off, 
known coloquially as “blasting a black’s ass’ 5 

Spraying hot wax on arms, hands or loins, the same with boiling cane 

Introducing animal fat into cuts made in the thighs 
Breaking bones by blows of a stick, or iron bar 
Mutilating a leg 

Pulling out of teeth or making slaves eat their own ears 
Condemning slaves to be ground in a mill 

Attaching others to a tree and leaving them to die of hunger and pain®* 
Asking a slave to dig his own grave and burying him alive in it 
Burying a slave to the neck, covering him with sugar so he will be eaten 
by flies or condemning him to slow death by placing him near an anthill 
Tying blacks to stakes, placing them in mosquito traps 
Placing blacks in cages and tying them to horses, their feet secured under 
the belly and hands tied to the tail 

Making slaves eat their own excrement, drink their urine, and lick the 
phlegm of other slaves 

Suspending slaves head down 
Sewing their lips together with brass wire 
Mutilation or removal of sexual organs 
Organized drown ings 

Enclosing blacks in sacks, nailing them to boards, crushing them in 
mortars, enclosing them in barrels with inward-protruding nails or, 
finally, having them attacked by man-eating dogs 
Exposing women to flames after having their breasts and vaginas burned 
and transfixed 

Raping women before their husbands or making them witness fheir 
children being cut to pieces by machete 

Further on, we will present an equally authentic listing. The documenta¬ 
tion is overwhelming of the traces of these cruelties on the flesh of the slave* 
The evidence consists of public, official statements made by prison keepers 
about the condition of captured Maroons placed in jail* There can be not 
the slightest doubt about the use of torture and barbarity in punishment if 


one reflects on the existence throughout the colony of official executioners, 
whether whites attached to the courts, or blacks condemned to death and 
earning this measure of clemency for carrying out their sad office. Not only 
were there executioners, but there were enough executions, tortures and 
crimes against the slave to suggest the need for regulating the function and 
setting the indiscreet price list revealed by Lucien Feytraud. 




30 livres 

Breaking live on the wheel 

60 livres 

Burning alive 

60 livres 

Hanging and burning 

35 livres 

Wrist cutting 

2 livres 

Dragging and hanging a corpse 

35 livres 

Putting the question ordinary and extraordinary 

15 livres 

Question ordinary only 

7 livres 10 sols 


10 livres 

Cutting hamstrings and branding 

15 livres 


5 livres 


3 livres 


10 livres 

Tongue cutting 

6 livres 

Piercing the tongue 

5 livres 

Cutting off cars and branding 

5 livres** 

Saint-Dorningue was a mill in which slaves as well as cane were ground; 
it was the principal burying ground of the slave trade. The colony “de¬ 
voured” its slaves at a dizzying rate, for which neither the continued and 
increasingly massive arrivals of slave ships nor even less the birth rate 
could satisfy. The harsh conditions of slavery, the forced labor, the mis¬ 
treatment, the tyranny and cruelty of the masters all served to increase mor¬ 
talities. Hilliard d'Anberteuil's observation in 1776 after twelve years in 
Saint-Domingue is startling: 

Ordinarily a third of the blacks from Guinea die in the first three years 
of transplantation, and the working life of an island-bom black can be no 
more than fifteen years, . * . More than 800,000 blacks have been brought 
into the colony since 1680 , , . and yet now (in 1776) there arc only 290,000. 

To this Gaston Martin adds: 

In the thirteen years from 1763 to 1776 the population has increased by 
only eighty-five thousand. Thus deaths have exceeded births by about fifty 
thousand, A frightening proportion.* 1 

Cruelty of the Masters 69 

It is equally surprising to note the A.A, figures of two hundred and 
ninety thousand slaves in 1777 against two hundred and ninety thousand in 
1776, despite the annual importation of Africans then exceeding fifteen 
thousand. Let us examine some other equally suggestive data, those, for 
example, for the year 17S4 during the preliminary peace talks after the long 
American war: 

Slaves introduced at Port-au-Prince and Cap, 9,488 and 13,342 respec¬ 
tively. Black deaths to the time of sales, 1,112 and 2,466. Net importation, 
8,376 and 10,876, for a total of 19,252. 

The cighty-two slave ships providing this supply were from Bordeaux, 
Lc Havre, Nantes, La Rochelle, Marseille, Saint-Malo, Dunkerque and 

The individual African was sold for 1907 colonial pounds at Port-au- 
Prince and at Cap for 1709. Just on the basis of the number of slaves im¬ 
ported and without counting the number dead from the date of importation 
to the time of sale each African brought a return of 1683 pounds at Port- 
au-Prince and 1393 at Cap- 

The ratio of deaths to importations from the time of processing to the 
date of sales was about one to eight for Port-au-Prince and for Cap ap¬ 
proximately one to five and one-half. 1 ^ It would be interesting to discover 
the causes for this considerable difference but we dare not hazard a guess. 
Since slave ship declarations for all ports of the colony were made at Port- 
au-Prince and Cap an exhaustive search of the registry of these two cities 
revealed a total importation of 19,252 slaves at a revenue of 34,564,740 
colonial pounds. 

The same paper published a summary of baptisms, marriages and burials 
for the year 1783, which it is interesting to compare with the table of slave 
importations so as to get a more precise idea of the population flow. 


White boys and girls 586 

Colored boys and girls 1596 

Slave boys and girls 4711 



Colored people and mi sallied 







White men and women 


Colored men and women 


Slaves, men and women 


We find preceding an examination of these statistics the following 

We pay very little attention to the Slave data; one of the lesser reasons is 
that we have the analyses of the records for only a few parishes, * * , There 
were six-tenths more Slave baptisms than burials because it is the custom to 
have them baptized and because in most Parishes the administering of the 
Sacrament is registered but most residents bury their slaves on the sa¬ 
vannas, ,,, 

Slaves who hope to gain their freedom put off their children’s baptism 
until that time so that they may be carried as free on the registers. , . . It is 
even possible that of the many managers administering the estates of 
absentee owners there might he a dishonest one who sells the owner’s Slaves 
while recording them as dead and buried. Likewise there may have been 
others who falsified the records of births by deliberately not registering 
them, , . , 

Father Laporte, chaplain at Fosscttc du Cap pointed out that of the 212 
burials of freedmen carried on his roster, 137 had died before the ages of 
four or five, and that among the 206 deaths listed on the same 1784 register 
there had been 122 children, for a total of 259 children buried before the 
age of four or five out of 418 total burials for two years. 

Among whites in the colony the male death rate is one in twenty-four, 
for w'omcn one in thirty. White males outnumber women three to one. 
Among freedmen male deaths are one in twenty-eight and for women one 
in thirty. Colored women outnumber the men by less than a fifth. There 
were also one-quarter more baptisms of boy slaves than girls and at least 
one-third more men than women buried,,., 

Here in addition are other equally valuable statistics and observations in 
support of the data leading to fairly acceptable conclusions about the evolu¬ 
tion of Saint-Domiague’s population. This new information relating to the 
year 1785 is also found in the Samt-Domingue press. The total number of 
Africans carried off in sixty-five slave ships and sold in Port-au-Prince, Cap, 
L^ogfine, Cayes, Saint-Marc and Jacmel is 21,652 at an average price of 
1996 pounds, Saint-Domingue alone received two-thirds of the slaves brought 
to the French islands. Here for that same year are the observations of the 
colonist Bonamy: 

Cruelty of the Masters 71 

Of two thousand slaves working in the Maribarou sugar mill the totals 
on the sick roster are: January 602, February 604, March 522, April 558, 
May 740, June 505, July 654, August 615, September 620, October 526, 
November 490, December 590- Over a twelve-year period the work-force 
mortality rate has been 4V% percent or one in twenty-two. This figure I 
believe is taken for the colony as a whole. . . 

In 1785, 21,652 slaves were imported, bringing 43,236,216 pounds. In 
1786, importations increased to 27,648 at an average price of 68 pounds. 
In 1787, we have a comparative list of slave prices for the period 1750 to 
1786 in which wc observe the average price increasing from 1000 to 1968 
pounds. In the same year a royal ordinance pertaining to the southern area 
of Saint-Dominguc and registered in the superior court at Port-au-Prince is 
made public. 1 ® 1 It reveals: 

. . . that the southern region of Saint-Domingue has been practically 
abandoned and that far from representing new resources for the great in¬ 
crease in cultivation of which this area is capable the Blacks brought in there 
have scarcely been adequate replacements for those lost annually to the 
plantation by reason of sickness or desertion. 

The number of slaves for 1785 and 1786 is 305,812 and 332,247 re¬ 
spectively. The general slave census for 1787 is 337,023, of which 27,330 
are exempts. 

Pierre de Vaissierc states that, in 1787, forty thousand Africans were 
imported. 102 The English consul at Cap, Bryan Edwards, whose data is 
usually extremely precise, places 1787 slave importations at 30,839 and 
29,506 in 1778. For 1791, the same author projects a total of 455,000 “sea¬ 
soned slaves, adults and children.” 103 

Some of these statements are contradictory, and dearly the statistics are 
incomplete. In addition, because of falsified declarations by colonists about 
the number of their slaves, and given the contraband importation of slaves 
and the manifest carelessness of masters in declaring work-gang births and 
deaths, these statistics cannot be taken as a correct estimate of the servile 
population. These reservations in mind, we shall make use of collected data 
to project a table which will make it possible to continue estimates from 
the date of Gaston Martin's last estimate, covering the thirteen years from 
1763 to 1776, which included the statement “that deaths exceeded births by 
fifty thousand, a frightening ratio.” Despite the missing figures an equally 
suggestive table is possible for the period 1777 to 1791* 

Assuming a very reasonable average of 25,000 slaves imported annually 
during the last fifteen years examined, we arrive at a total of 375,000 im¬ 
ported. Added to a population which at the outset numbered 297,000 
slaves, this brings the number of slaves to 672,000, if births and deaths for 
the same period were figured in the computation. 























To this population total we will add average slave births at the rate of 
4711 annually, a total of 70,655 over fifteen years and thus hypothesize a 
population of 742,665. Of course, the figures for deaths must be subtracted 
from the total population count increased by births* Now, if we rely on 
official statistics there would have been only 2234 annually or 33,510 in fif¬ 
teen years, bringing the total slave population to 709,155 in 1791, white 
Bryan Edwards' estimate for the same year is only 455,000 slaves. What 
then became of the 254,155 missing slaves? There would no longer be a 
matter of 2234 slave deaths annually but the, again, frightening figure of 
16,943 slave-population deaths annually to be accounted for 104 

The obtained result derives of course from summary calculations which 
we have sought not to complicate by growth rates and other common statis¬ 
tical techniques. Nevertheless, this uncertain figure, it must be agreed, would 
be overexaggerated when we rate the average price of a slave in constant 
rise, according to Bryan Edwards, to above 2500 pounds in 1791, 1 ® 5 after 
having wavered between 1907 pounds in 1784 and 2099 pounds, 2 shillings 
in 1788. The figure is confirmed by Charles Mozard, director of Affiches 
Amirlcdnes, while, from 1730 to 1784, the current price of a slave did not 
rise above 1300 pounds* 106 

The sixteen to eighteen thousand slaves liquidated each year represent 
much more than half the number imported—in any case many more than 
could be compensated for by births. These are, besides, limited for a num¬ 
ber of reasons in addition to prostitution, libertine behavior and “amenorrhea 
due to famine’ 1 —a result of malnutrition causing female sterility* 107 Pregnant 
slave women were subjected to plantation labor and deprived so to speak 
of maternity rest, 108 

Infant mortality was excessive* Children grew up without care; mothers, 
even wet nurses, often having been “in the garden.” A child scarcely able 
to walk was put to work—if as an infant he had not fallen victim to the 
white children to whom he had been given as a toy, or if she were a young, 
scarcely nubile girl, whom the master had not already deflowered or made 
victim of the worst debauches, perverted and dragged into the depths of 

Cruelty of the Masters 73 

prostitution. Many African women resorted to abortions to avoid becoming 
the mothers of slaves. One midwife servicing black women exclusively swore 
that over a period of years she had poisoned every child she brought into 
the world. 109 Another African woman, an Arada, claimed to have caused 
the death of more than seventy infants at Plantation RossignohDesdunes 
“in order to rescue them from slavery. 1 * 110 When it was not a matter of 
abortions, the death of newborns was effected immediately after birth by 
penetrating the fontanelle with a poisoned pin prick, leaving no trace and 
causing that mysterious sickness of the jaws that claimed so many victims. 
There were, indeed, an infinity of discreet, reliable methods for poisoning as 
well as for that mysterious art of swallowing the tongue, the kind of secrets 
that the Saint-Dominguc slaves never revealed. Actually another deterrent 
to childbirth derived from the colonist, who preferred to buy another slave 
rather than be burdened with some difficult delivery, with the long breeding 
of a sickly child scarcely able to assimilate its food, or the absence of a 
pregnant slave barely able to sustain her pregnancy. True, other colonists 
maintained breeding factories, giving bonuses, unofficial freedom, or days 
off to mothers of three, four, and five children. 

It is surprising that the adminstration did not in any sustained, effective 
way encourage a similar program in support of an increased birthrate and 
that it did not appear to view with alarm the disturbing disproportion be¬ 
tween masters and slaves which Saint-Mery computed as “three-tenths of a 
white for every eleven slaves.’* 111 

Actually, with the exception of some meager advantages granted mothers 
of six slave children, the administration attacked the problem full force, in¬ 
directly, by attempting to increase the birth rate among white colonists or 
freedmen. From a list of people awarded pensions given to fathers of ten 
and twelve children, wc find that in 1788 112 the administration awarded fif¬ 
teen hundred pounds annually to white men who fathered twelve children, 
and seven hundred fifty to those with ten children, Colored men received an 
annual two thousand pounds for twelve and five hundred pounds for ten 
children. There were not many claimants—in all, forty whites and thirty-four 
freedmen, including several widows representing prolific husbands unper¬ 
turbed at having so large a family as ten or twelve children. 

The loss of some sixteen to eighteen thousand slaves annually seems 
unbelievable. In any case they disappeared from the census. The hypothesis 
which comes to mind is that the drop was a result not only of deaths but 
also of slave desertions. It is reasonable to assume that colonists did 
not care to have these fugitive and irretrievable slaves carried on their in¬ 
ventories, thus leaving themselves subject to paying head tax on practically 
non-existent slaves. 

The cry of alarm embodied in the Royal Ordinance of 1787, on behalf 
of the South, bears repeating. It describes, and expressly so, the actual situa¬ 
tion throughout the colony in which “the blacks carried there . . * have 


scarcely sufficed to replace the numbers lost annually to the plantation 
through illness or desertion* 1 ’ There is no other explanation for the incessant 
to-and-fro traffic of slave ships between all the ports of the colony* ships 
crammed with Africans from Gold Coast, from Senegal and especially in 
those days from the Congo and Angola kingdoms mingled with groups of 

At times they numbered as many as forty thousand in a single year. And 
Saint-Domingue kept on crushing their bones to the very marrow in the piti¬ 
less mills of slavery. After ten or fifteen years of punishing labor many slaves, 
weary and worn, lapsed into the lethargy of premature old age. 113 They were 
then assigned to the less tiring job of herdsman or caretaker. Those unable 
to perform these tasks, which did not call for the great physical expenditure 
required by field work and sugar mill, were often resold. Owners had not the 
slightest scruples in discarding these old, sometimes faithful, servants now 
become useless mouths to feed, castoffs good only for the garbage can or 
for palming off, well concealed, in a lot carefully and craftily put together 
for the occasion, offered to some naive buyer. 

How many worn-out old men in the twilight of a miserable life given in 
the service of a pitiless master were thus offered for sale! How many sus¬ 
pected dramas lie in those pitiless newspaper advertisements! Note for ex- 
ample the advertising of “a blind negro suitable for working at the wheel, u * 
2 male and 2 female slaves, 10 years in the country, cash or payable in 
March.” 11 * 

With the analysis of Maroon descriptions in succeeding pages we will 
discern, every veil being lifted, the unendurable, unsuspected horror of 
slavery. It is graven in the lacerated flesh of the Saint-Domingue blacks, and 
no one can doubt that this inhumane regimen was of itself a cause of mar- 
ronage. That privileged and satiated administrator. Governor Fenclon, w r ho 
by the way enjoyed “the scandalous salary of 100,000 French pounds sil¬ 
ver,” 110 recommended from Martinique that “the blacks be led like beasts.” 
His sinister counsel was well exceeded. The colonists were solicitous of their 
horses. They fattened their mules. But for the slaves they countenanced 
death brought on by hunger, by hard labor, torture and the whip. The de¬ 
praved colonist was every bit the savage beast With feelings of both anger 
and bitterness, Pauleus Sannon, our best historian, has declared that there 
was in Saint-Domingue “a collection of beasts of burden exploited by beasts 
of prey.” 117 

NOTES, pp. 15-74 

1, Cesar de Rochefort, Histoire naturetie des Isles de TAmirique, Rotterdam, Reiner 
Leers, 1681, pp, 340ff_ 

2* Picrre-Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, Histoire de ITsle Espagnole ou de Saint * 
Domingue, Paris, chez Jacques Guerin, 1731, pp* 497ft* 

3. P. La bat, Voyage aux Isles Fran Raises de LAmerique d'apr&s V edit ion de 1722, 
Lefcbvre, Paris, 1831, p. 169. 

4* P* Nicolson, Essai sur l'Histoire natureUe de Saint-Domingue, Paris, Gobereau, 
1776, p* 57. 

5* Moreau de Saint-Mery I, pp* 46-50, 79, Taillemite-Maurel edition* 

6, Dubuc de Marenlilies, De I'esc lavage des nigres dans fes colonies de FAmirique , 
1790, cited by Vaissiere in Saint-Domingue, pp. 154-155, 

7, Here, there is scarcely any mention of slave absences due to laziness, libertine 
behavior or other unimportant reasons. These are not marronage, but simply 
“hooky, flights for which the slave had in advance expected to get himself par¬ 
doned without too much trouble or punishment.” Except when, by becoming 
prolonged for weeks, they changed character, these flights were seldom included 
in descriptions of Maroons. Everything indicates that they were typical of slave 

8* P* Nicolson, pp* 18-20* 

9* The African data, aside from the length of the handle, is not very different from 
the colonial hoe. 

10* Dr. Jean Price-Mars, Le Processus dune Culture in Tax : Acculturation in the 
Americas , Vol* 11, Proceedings of the 29th International Congress of Ameri¬ 
canists, University of Chicago Press, 1952, p* 145* 

11* Suzanne Sylvain, Le Creole haitien, Meester Printers, Belgium, 1936, p* 178* 

12* Jules Eaine, Le Cr6ole dans Wnivers, Imp* de I'Etat, 1939, pp. 14, 20, 214, 

13, With the exception, of course, of rare cargoes of slaves destined for Saint- 
Domingue in 1790 and 1791 and loaded at Maurice Island* Jules Paine certainly 
did not have this information. It is scarcely pertinent, since it is subsequent to 
the formation of Creole. It is not known if Africans were imported from Maurice 
before 1790, but it is hardly likely, 

14. Andr6 Marcel, a renowned linguist, has just had published by the University of 
Leyden, Holland, a scholarly study of the real origins of Haitian Creole* In pick¬ 
ing up Jules Fame's thesis with a more scientific approach, this book will reopen 
the debate and accentuate out inquiries* 

15* Descourtilz, 111, 192. Today they say more frequently bounda; the word bonda 
(behind) is African. It is found again, curiously enough, in Argentina, See Peredo 
Valdez's El Negro Rio-platense, 

16* Sonthonax's Proclamation in Creole* 

17. Descourtilz, 111, 214. 

18. Descourtilz, 111, 217* 

19* Malenfant, 204, 206, 

20* It is largely an African syntax, notably Ewe, that must have marked Creole* 
Furthermore, Creole vocabulary is derived from the French of the era, especially 
nautical jargon, old French expressions and colonial parlance* These at least are 
the most common con elusions* 

21* Sailor's idiom that became a synonym for speed* 

22* An expression absorbed into the current French of Senegal. 

23* S.A.A., 24 April 1784* In the Affichcs of 15 March 1787, a worthy Cap busi¬ 
nessman observed that “the rules of our language are greatly neglected in Saint- 
Domingue, * * , If they applied themselves more to the study of the French Ian- 



guage, we would doubtlessly less often hear said tight the tight t a dompte in¬ 
stead of a dompti (tame) mule, charoyer instead of charier (to cart) a house 
en magorme for en magonnerie, a certain dead man leaving five to six children, a 
lady arrested by five to six guards, . . . You can't leave five and a half children, 
nor can you be arrested by five and a quarter guards . . . n rapid reflection, etc/' 

24, "Slavery is an institution deeply rooted [in Africa J, The slave is treated as any 
other salaried person, often even better cared for and nourished, for the master 
receives the best advantage in conserving his goods intact: he is in some way a 
part of the master's family, * * # ”—Jules Leclercq. 

25, Let us remember that slavery existed and still exists in Africa, According to the 
Anti-Slavery Society of London* this institution still exists in Libya, Mali* Cam¬ 
eroon, Mauretania, Nigeria, Tchad, and Senegal* not to mention the Maghreb 
In the world today there would still be in about forty countries ten million 
slaves to liberate, principally women used as prostitutes or children used as 
money. For example* at the lime of pilgrimages to Mecca, “masters have been 
observed making provisions to pay for their return trip by selling on the spot 
young boys who have become veritable travelers checks."—Marie-Jo®6 Vlobert, 
in L'esclavage n*est pas mort. 

26, Yaya Wane, Les Toucoukurs dit Fouta-Toro {Sinigol), Stratification ct structure 
familiale Centre National de la Recherche Scicntifique I,F,A,N. t Dakar, 1969 
pp, 6ia: 

27, "There was a time in the Kingdom [of France! I hat you would scarcely have 
found a million true citizens as against twenty million true staves.'—Statement 
by Abbot Brudeau in March 1766, reported by Michele Duchct, “L'ideologie 
colon i ale" in Anthtropologte et his wire dtt siecie des tumltres, Masp6ro, Paris, 
1971, p. 164. 

28, Ed. De mol ins, cited by Auguste Magtoire, m Hisfoirc d*Haiti. VEre native!! e t Ire 
panic, 1909, pp, 231-233. 

29, Saint-M£ry I, p. 58. The same Saint-Domingue historian tells of Africans aston¬ 
ished to see their own images in a mirror, to hear the “lick-lock'' of a watch or 
shocked to see a master drinking red wine, confusing it with blood. These are 
the pictures which upon Columbus* arrival usually described the primitivencss of 
the Indian, who was, certainly* of a culture less developed than that of Ihc 

30, “Suicides multiplied more especially* as the slaves* general belief was that, once 

dead and buried, they would return to their homeland."—Father Labat, I, 450, 

31, On Sundays, a ceremony of like inspiration in memory of the brothers deported 

by treaty takes place, facing the sea* on the beaches of Lagos, Nigeria. 

32, During the crop time, some sugar factories actually operated at night, not only 

for the boiling of the sugar* but also for grinding the cane. It was especially at 
night that accidents occurred in the mills. Therefore it was the practice to make 
the slaves sing in order to keep awakc.—Vaisstere* op. cit. f p. 168. 

33, Factory slaves comprised indigo workers, millers, sugar makers* carters* sorters, 
coffee dryers, pressers, and packers on the cotton plantations, and so forth. 

34, Citations by Pierre de Vaissiere in Saint-Domingue, Paris* 1909, pp. 166-168. 

35, See A ffwhes A mericaincs, 1786. 

36, Malenfant, Des colonics ct particu!Brement de celle de Saint-Domingue, Paris, 
1814* p. 204, 

37* Idem., p. 185. 

38, Pfcre Labat. 

39, Malenfant* op. cir. t p. 278, It was the custom to share a carreau of land among 
ten to sixteen slaves, depending on the masters* the region or available land. 

40, The Ordinance of d'Enncry and de Vaivres. A.A., 1789, pp. 388-389. 

Notes 77 

41 . NouveUes diverse *, no. XLI, 2D May 1789. It is an ordinance about freedom of 
commerce in the South—in slaves, flour, animals, salt preserves, and other items 
and annulled by the king in July of the same year, 

42. According to A.A. t “Along with manioc the millets are the most commonly 
grown items in Saint-Domingue/’ 

43. See Jean Fouchard, Plaisirs de Salnt-Domingue. Port-au-Prince, 1954, If rice was 
not a frequent item in the slave diet, it was eaten rather frequently aboard slave 
vessels or by certain work gangs (Vaissiere, 160 and 172). According to Stan¬ 
islas Foacbe, rice was “the healthiest food/ 1 but it should be noted that the 
slaves of certain nations w ? ere not fond of it. 

44. S.A.A., 7 July 1784. 

45. Writing from France, a proprietor to his overseer: *\ * . Your accounts alone 
condemn you. The two thousand francs you spent on provisions could not have 
fed 150 slaves. And you think you have done a great job when you dole out to 
an unfortunate who has worked all day three ounces of bread and a morsel of 
salt cod. . , , n Yet this is the same owner who earlier wrote to the same over¬ 
seer, “You should try as much as you can to accustom your slaves to their 
ordinary fare and to provide their own food so as to cut down expenses, . , ** 
G. Debien, Plantation et exclaves d Saint-Domingue, pp. 71-72, In the interval 
there had been deaths and desertions, and the master in anguish saw his w r ealth 
in slaves diminish, 

46. To guard against excessive importation of flour. Abbot Delahaye published in 
1781 a 106-page brochure, through Du four de Rians, entitled L’art de converter 
les vivres en pain sans melange de farine. In it, the Dondon priest recommended 
making bread with manioc, sw p eet potatoes, tanya, yam, plantain, rice, corn, millet 
and pumpkin. A.A. 23 October 1782, 

47. Voyage d f un Suisse en diffSrentes colonies, Neufch&tel 17 85, p, 138. 

48. P, Nicolson, op. cit. f pp. 54-55, 

49. Cited by Father Antoine Gislcr, in L'esclavage aux Antilles frangaises, Fribourg, 
1965, pp. 39-41, 

50. As told by Malenfant, op, c/I., p, 232. 

51. Du Tertre, 11, 520. 

52. Father Labat, p, 178 adds, “The slaves are seldom shod, that is, wearing shoes 
and stockings. . . , Ordinarily they all move about barefooted and the soles of 
their feet are as hard as shoes. 11 

53. S.A.A.j 16 April 1785. 

54. It is the women who, as w p e still say today, “give the mill its food," feeding the 
cane between the rollers. 

55. Contrary to the custom in many African countries, the men also went lo market. 
Among certain African peoples men do the heavy labor of clearing the land and 
women plow, seed, and harvest. 

56. They even denounced the extravagance of cheap hats, “festooned with bits of tin,” 

57. Tralte sur le gouverncment des exclaves, Emilien Petit, p, 83. 

58. Vanufel, Code des Colons de Saint-Domingue, p. 72, 

59. We owe this detail to Laurelte Mozard, the printer’s daughter, born in Port-au- 
Prince. Despite having left the colony at an early age she wrote her MS moires 
d'urie creole du Port-au-Prince, lie de Saint-Domingue, ft Paris, 1844, p, 24, 

60. Saint-M£ry, I, 75-77. 

61. Malenfant, op * dt u pp, 135, 140. 

62. Ibid., p. 138. * 

63. Souvenirs du Comte de Vaublanc, I, 171-201, 

64. Me moire sur Vistablissement de la par tie frangaise de Saint-Dommgue, p. 25. 

65. Memoire (anonymous) sur les disastres de Saint-Domingue, cited by Vaissiere, 


66. Girod Chantrans, op. cit. 

67. Journal geniral de Saini-Domingue, 3 and 6 November 1790. Dissertation on the 
fraud in doth materials. 

68. A.A., January 1769 and 7 August 1770. S.A.A., 28 February 1775. A.A., June 

69. S.A.A., February 1782—“For sale, a plantation with ten negroes and ten slave 
houses roofed in straw." 

70. See Lebreton Savigny “Observations faites par les voyageurs frangais, sur 

Tesclavage . . ." in UAfrique Litteraire et Artistique, August 197!, The same 
author elsewhere enumerates other accounts of the general conditions of slave 
life identical, climate excepting, to those in Samt-Dommgue: “The houses are 
uninhabitable in the summer and glacial in winter. Furnishings are, so to speak, 

nonexistent. The black wraps himself in a shabby cover and stretches out on a 

board. Bureau saw slaves assigned to perform hard work who received only a 
piece of rancid pork no larger than an egg and wormy cornbread a beggar 
would not have accepted , . , blacks in rags . . . groups of negroes in tatters, 

children already advanced in years with but a shirt in shreds. . , " And to think 

that the fathers of American Democracy—Washington and Jefferson—were both 
slaveholders, *. * 

71. Dutertre, 

72. Saint-M6ry mentions this in the same terms as Father Dutertre. 

73. Saint-Mery, III, 1298, 

74. Malenfant, p. 165, 

75. Labat. 

76. Ducoeurjolly, I, 50. 

77. Descourtite, 111, 205, 

78. Descourtiiz, p. 233, Fap made from manioc is called couche-couche in the South, 

79. “A w p ater mill can be set up to deliver water to the slave houses," informs an 
advertisement for the sale of a plantation adjacent to MonTOrganise, S.A.A., 8 
May 1773, In addition there is mention “of a cistern near the slave quarters 
capable of filling three hundred water barrels. 11 Upon his departure from the 
colony (S.A.A., 18 August 1780) Mendes-France's elder son offered for lease 
his plantation located five leagues from Petit-Goave “with good water and suffi¬ 
cient food supply for 150 negroes." Chevalier de Puilboreau, offering his planta¬ 
tion for sale ( S.A.A. t Feuille du Cap Fran^ais t 20 December 1788) indicated 
that it had “a fountain which by means of canals supplied water to the slave 
houses 11 and that on his plantation in GonaiVes, also for sale, “the slave houses 
are on a lovely mountain torrent." It seems clear that the colonist was at times 
concerned about the supply of running water to the slave houses. Also apparently, 
this was for the most part the concern of masters living in Saint-Domingue and 
personally managing their plantations. 

80. Saint-Mery, op. cit. 3 I, 63. For the black women especially the Calvaires, whose 
charming smiles were highly praised, white teeth were considered an ornamenta¬ 

81. Gazette de SatnFDomingue t January 1791, 

82. Supplement Gazette de Saint-Domingue, January 1791, 

83. Information provided at the Brussels Antislavcry Lectures. 

84. Pierre de Vaissicre, p. 158, 

85. Peytraud, p, 411. 

86. One Delisle Thibaut, a slaver proposed—vainly it seems—a belter ventilation of 
the slave cargoes heaped between decks. It was a successfully tested method, he 
said, of saving slaves. “On opening the hatches we almost always find several 

Notes 79 

dead slaves who the previous evening had shown no sign o! indisposition and 
many others surely dying,” Gazette de S.D. f 2, 12, 1791. 

87. Vaissi&re, p. 161. 

88. Saint-M6ry, 153, p. 467. 

89. Peytraud, p. 109. 

90. Gaston Martin. Now and then the Affichcs mentions a slave “with a possibly 
somewhat swollen face, still weak from seasickness.” Some slavers like Foache 
announced at their sales that they had already “rid themselves of defective 

91. At the overwhelmingly successful Brussels Antislavery Lectures, Mr. Jules Le- 
clercq, president of the Royal Belgian Geographic Society, painted a striking 
picture of the slave marts, now almost completely disappeared, as they were 
conducted in Africa. The picture provides an idea of the traditional African slave 
markets before and after the slave trade: 

“The sale (of Sudanese slaves) takes place in broad daylight at the slave market. 
The prospective buyers gather under the vaulted galleries taking a turn around 
the area; in the center there is a eeilmged hall where one can take in the 
auction. The public crier arrives holding by the hand a young black woman, a 
nursling on her back. Loudly he announces that the minimum price of the 
mother and infant boy is two hundred francs. He then moves her from room 
to room, where each one exposes her, feels her wrist, examines eyes and teeth 
and after a most minute inspection adds one, two or three piastres ... the auction 
becomes lively, . . . He runs rather than walks, dragging the unfortunate woman 
after him, extracting higher bids on the run; the price mounts and after a half- 
hour comes to a stop at double the prescribed minimum, . , ." 

92. In practice, above and below the knee. 

93. SAA. t 16 April 1785: The same supposedly humane and comprehensive ordi¬ 
nance gave permission to make pregnant slave women and nursemaids work, even 
if with a more or less abbreviated schedule, in the sugar factories at milling 
time and in other factories and, in exceptional cases, to make slaves work until 
eight o'clock at night. Incidentally, the same ordinance continued to lump 
“slaves and animals.” 

94. These suggestive extracts were cited by Father Gisler in his interesting study 
L'esclavage aux Antilles fran$aiscs, pp. 107-111, 

95. Apparently a common practice. Many examples of its use are seen in the news¬ 
papers of the colony, especially during the years preceding the American War. 

96. According to Father Labat, this punishment was known as “drying out the 

97. Peytraud, op . tit,, 307. 

98. Gaston Martin, op. dr., pp. 124-125. 

99. An extremely rare case, Stanislas Foache announced in the 18 June 1766 Af- 
fiehes that his ship “did not lose a single slave during the crossing." 

100. SAA. t 14 January 1786. 

101. AA. t 10 March 1787, 

102. Op. c/7,, p. 164. Let it be noted in passing that the Affiches gives the figures for 
colored people as 12,883 and 16,992 for 1785 and 1786. 

103. Bryan Edwards, Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of Saint* 
Domingo j London, 1787, p. 200. 

104. It should be noted, incidentally, that the burial of Africans who had had good 
friends was accompanied by cries and lamentations, eulogies by the griots, sing¬ 
ing and drums. Several days later a “service" consisting of a great feast bringing 
together friends and family was organized. Mourning was in white, the head 
kerchief folded in tw f o (Saint-M6iy, I, 80) , 


105, Op, cit. f p, 200* Lc Pays de Bourjolly refused to sell one of his skilled slaves for 
fifteen thousand pounds (SainUMdry, III, 131?), 

106, Almanack giniral de Saint-Domingue B.N.P, et Statistiques published in the 
Affichesol 10 March 1787, 

107, Leroy-Laberic in Annates, economies, soclitis, civilisations, December 1969. 

108, See in Malenfant* op, cit„ 206, the formal accusation of the slaves on Plantation 
Fleuriau, on the Cul-de-Sac plain, 

109, Vassidre, op, off,, p, 244, 

110, Descourtilz, II, 185, In May 1760 the administration had tried vainly to reserve 
to whites alone the monopoly of the practice in midwifery, 

111, Saint-Mdry, I, 28, On the subject of Saint-Dominguc births, it might be helpful 
to invoke in comparison the response of Dr, William Wright to an inquiry of the 
Privy Council of Great Britain on the causes harmful to the slave population of 
Jamaica: "Using women at too young an age, inconstancy and loose living 
among both sexes, the latter’s hiding of syphilitic infections, their nocturnal 
jaunts and excessive dancing, an excess of alcoholic beverages” A,A, t 29 Novem¬ 
ber 1788, 

112, A ffiches A mericalnes, 

113, ”At forty physically old and about half of them dead,” G, Martin, op, c/f., p, 126. 

114, S,A.A, r 10 January 1784, Example repeated elsewhere, 

115, S,A,A. t 11 March 1786, 

116, P, Rennard, Mistake rellgleuse des Antilles Fran Raises, 

117, Pauldus San non, Mistoire de Toussaint-Lou ve rtttre, I, p, xv. 




delivered babies; relieved sore throats and la bisquette,* reduced coughing 
and chest inflammation; cured the venereal infections so prevalent in the 
work gangs; treated high fevers, sores, epilepsy, hernias and itching caused 
by chiggers. 

It was the slaves themselves who, living among such great numbers of 
illiterate or semiliterate masters, felt the need to learn to read and write, who, 
in the face of legal prohibitions, secretly made off with spelling books and 
primers, 3 Even the Creole language itself, if it had not been invented by the 
Saint-Domingue Africans, if they had not passed it on to us with the milk 
of their mothers 1 breasts, had it been a totally borrowed phenomenon or 
purely a French creation, we would nevertheless have to admire the slave's 
ability so quickly to enliven the language with a treasury of songs, tales, 
proverbs, and legends invested with so much grace, richness and beauty* This 
is not even to mention the patoislike language of the drums and lambis** and 
all those melodies of the four-stringed African violins, which, w F ith their 
festive or languorous rhythms, have become first our chicas, then our vara- 
biriters and meringues.* 

Add to these contributions our way of thinking and our progress amid 
those furrows which, in the harmony of our vevesf and the impeccable order 
of the ancestral rites and dances, were etched, as it were, in our flesh and one 
with our blood, enriching our patrimony and each quiver of the national 
sou!. It was the slave who inspired and created the colony's tanned leather 
shoes, the cuffs and headpieces with fancy lace, who imposed on French 
factories the checkered cloths and lively colors which dominated colonial 
style. It is the female slave who taught the major element in feminine dress; 
the madras headdress, African style, and creole rings, just as it was the 
emancipated woman who served as a model for white w r omen and whom, we 
note with some surprise, many young creoles tried to imitate “in their atti¬ 
tudes, their bearing and gestures.” Or else they tried to extract from them 
“secret practices in the art of lovemaking.” 3 

It is the African on his own who, thrusting barriers aside, made his 
place in the theater, mounting the stage, establishing the talent of M incite, ft 
and setting the vogue in local comedy.® It is the slave who contributed creole 
cooking, that special art of preparing crab, turtle, fried or frittered pisqueis,% 
wood pigeons fed on bay-tree grain, Guinea-sorrel jelly, highly spiced yams. 

* A heart affliction. 

♦* A conch and a very popular food item in certain Caribbean islands. The shell was 
also used for sounding signals. 

t Cabalistic signs usually traced on the ground in flour before a Voodoo ceremony, 
ft A popular black entertainer. In February 1781 La Comidk de Port au Prince ignored 
the color line to present the fourteen-year-old Mincite playing Isabelle in the one-act 
opera Isabelle and Gertrude. The “young person" as she was called for 3 number of 
years, enjoyed a widely acclaimed career* 
t A tiny river fish easily caught by the hundreds. 

The Maroons of Liberty 85 

cabbages or palm grubs en brochette , calalou gumbo, and the delicate use 
of ginger and nutmeg, or the proper use of hot sauce, not to mention the use 
of accasan, red beans, plantains, tamarind juice, soursop, pineapple, apricot 
and cashew apple/ 

In spite of the negative attitude of the colonist steeped in indifference 
and scorn, in spite of prohibitions or the policy of keeping slaves at the level 
of beasts, blacks were clever enough to carve out, however slowly, an im¬ 
provement in almost every aspect of their situation—a limited, far from gen¬ 
eralized improvement, no doubt, but one nevertheless so significant as to 
impose on colonial life elements of their own culture. It is an obvious phe¬ 
nomenon—and a most extraordinary one, given the barriers and prohibitions 
and the conditions of slavery in Samt-Dominguc. 

However modest, this breakthrough affecting at once health practices, 
artisan ry, clothing, cooking, sick care, teaching, housing, furnishings, even 
day-to-day colonial life and fashion, must be seen as a prodigious effort. By 
his own genius, the African invented, taught, and practiced many of the 
methods in use on plantations and in sugar mills. These were, for example, 
the use of banana leaves to reduce heat and condensation in conduits, 8 a 
special method for preparing soil, for fertilizing, for shaping barrels; a greatly 
varied use of straw or vegetable fibers, including rattan matting, that was 
still an important export as late as 1842/ In addition, the slave was responsi¬ 
ble for the popularizing of certain foods and techniques in the cultivation of 
those food crops and the consequent increase in the wealth of Saint- 
Domingue, with, in 1789, 7,756,225 banana trees, 1,278,229 manioc plants, 
12,734 carrcaux of com, 18,738 in potatoes, 11,825 in yams and 7,046 in 
millet. Clearly it is not these incomplete details that are important* What is 
important, rather, is that these scattered examples, admittedly far from 
spectacular or convincing, when isolated, be inserted in the overall statistical 
accounting that is so pregnant with surprising initiatives. Everything that 
gave to the colony’s manufactures and plantations their own orientation and 
character, distinguishing them from European agricultural and cattle-raising 
methods, was the contribution of the slaves. This cannot be overemphasized. 

Neither the Indian nor the indentured white could match the black con¬ 
tribution to the incredible wealth of Saint-Domingue. Yet the tendency is to 
think this was merely a triumph of physical courage, “of useful animals” 
devoid of the slightest intelligence. 

As clearly demonstrated, the African was by no means a simple work 
animal; he was instead the courageous, intelligent instrument that was, after 
all, the real source of production in Saint-Domingue. He was very far re¬ 
moved indeed from the shapeless, bestiaiized creature “devoid of all feeling,” 
whose image the colonists and other witnesses of the colonial period have 
singularly distorted without according the slave, if not the highest awards due 
him, even the least recognition of the quality and value of his forced contri¬ 
bution to the prosperity of the distant capital. 


Will it ever be sufficiently remembered that, thanks to the Africans of 
Saint-Domingue, one out of every five Frenchmen lived high, grown fat with 
gold louis on the sweat of the faceless slave who deserved a prayer each eve¬ 
ning in every hearth in the Kingdom of France and Navarre? 10 

From the perspective of Western civilization, what was the condition 
of the Africans brought to Saint-Domingue during the slave trade? They 
were considered primitives. It is quickly said. All philosophy about human 
goodness aside, the label might still appear just if we compare the level of 
development to which they had been reduced in the slave-trade era with the 
precise, often distinctive, cultural scales of the European, for example, who, 
in a general way according to Western concepts, better—perhaps solely— 
represented that idea which the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth cen¬ 
turies were developing with respect to progress, growth, and that whole 
complex of acquisition and conquest defining Civilization, all concepts still 

Nevertheless, we will not plunge into that extravagant demonstration of 
African racism by which we would triumphantly point out that the chcw- 
stick, or other plant stem for oral hygiene was quite as good as the tooth¬ 
brush; that certain vines were used as soap; that rope bridges or bone needles 
were signs of progress; and that for centuries the practice of applying cob¬ 
webs to wounds or of delivering pregnant women stretched head down 
stopped bleeding or eased certain difficult cases of childbirth. Many of these 
empirical methods were clearly effective—so indisputably so that modem 
science became interested in them as well as in the African use of the secrets 
of herbs, finding therein ideas and new formulae for adoption. 

"This reasoning is, however, too simplistic or much too limited for com¬ 
parison with a civilization that had already discovered the printing press and 
the steam engine. Within the world of the masters, even Saint-Domingue had 
its ear to the ground to sense the march of Progress. At Cap they were ex¬ 
perimenting with airships. On 10 April 1784, at the Marquis de Galliffcfs 
plantation, two leagues from Cap, before the General, the Intendant and a 
large crowd, Mr. Bcccard launched a thirty-foot balloon, made of 204 pounds 
of taffeta, that rose eighteen hundred feet, then came down some four hun¬ 
dred yards from its takeoff point. This experiment in imitation of “Montgol¬ 
fier's rising sphere” was successfully repeated three times consecutively. 11 

The Philadelphians kept themselves informed on botany and medicine* 
The press featured probing essays that were precursors to the discovery of 
radio, the submarine or stenography (tachygraphy), 13 even to Abb6 Bertho 
ion's invention 

of a machine called Parachute, actually a sheep placed in a wicker basket 
sustained by twelve cords which descended slowly from a height of one 
hundred feet, six times in succession, without harm to the docile animal*** 

Tli© Maroons of Liberty 87 

This was, then, a world apart, unknown to Africa, a world of scientific 
achievements of which the African of the slave-trade era probably had not 
the slightest inkling. We should also hasten to add that certainly, without 
the leadership given them, without the irrigation works, the dams and techni¬ 
cal tools of the colonist, the transplanted Africans would not have been able 
so quickly and efficiently to bring about the extraordinary agricultural and 
industrial development of the colony, 14 

Be that as it may, if the African of that day, cut off in general from the 
outside world and undermined by internal wars, was outside the stream of 
this dominant civilization he was by no means a shapeless and dull primitive 
or a retardate enmeshed in sorcery, cannibalism, and the most frightful sav¬ 
agery, a being barely emerged from the level of the beast. The Africans— 
the Sudanese and especially the Guineans and the Bantus, who formed the 
first beginnings of the Haitian people—came for the most part from geo¬ 
graphic areas where civilizations had been bom, flourished, and subsequently 
ruined by tribal divisions, wars, and raids of conquest. 

These civilizations could not have failed to leave in the very blood of 
these races some traces of instincts, passions, virtues and marks of a culture 
whose roots, buried in the heart of so many generations could not have dis¬ 
appeared, not even in their relatively progressive melding with Islam or 
through the influence of the Moors or of “those Arabs whose knowledge still 
astonishes the Europe they helped to enlighten.” 15 

Certainly it is known that the Sudanese empires, to which Mandingans 
and Bambaras were heirs, made it a practice to relegate to the coasts those 
peoples resistant to assimilation and strong enough to maintain their indi¬ 
viduality, and that “it is especially they who comprised the slaves of Saint- 
Domingue.” 16 Thus it was these proud rebel blacks, and it was the bravest, 
the strongest and the healthiest of these, whom slave traders reserved for 
Saint-Domingue. 1T Again, at the time of the slave trade, people in every 
region of the Gold Coast boasted elegant, comfortable homes and an elabo¬ 
rate cuisine. Malenfant has left us the exact words of the slave Tamerlan, 
from Boucassin who, like many Islam ized slaves, knew how to read and 
write. Formerty instructor to the king’s son, he said that the country in which 
he had been captured had a capital constructed in wood and well laid out, 
with a population of three hundred thousand living in one-story houses. 18 

Descourtilz, for one, testified to the practice of Burnou blacks in Arti- 
bonite who for writing used “dried pods of the ‘mimosa dens’* boiled in 
lemon juice , • . bamboo quills * . . palm ‘stains’ and small boards/ 510 

It was on the West African coast that the very ancient art of metal work¬ 
ing flourished “in the golden civilizations/ 5 From foundries and kilns typical 
of such early origins 30 came engraved sabers for warriors and princes, caned 
pommels for chiefs, jeweled and plain rings, iron and copper hand bells. 

• A leguminous plant. 


bracelets worked with sea shells, and fragments of ivory, wood, and skill¬ 
fully sculptured horn. In brief, all the traditional luxury of black Africa 
with its high taste for ornamentation. 21 
Simple animals? Come now! 

Wc doubt that Dcscourtilz exaggerated in vaunting the Aradas as follows: 

These people were produced by the finest of bloods; it is as though in 
their noble and pleasing form Nature most carefully perfected its method 
of generation* 33 

Nor can we believe that the cruel, scornful Roehambeau gave way to an 
excess of enthusiasm when, in that well-known letter to the minister of the 
Marine, he so forgot himself as to salute 'This superior race of Africans 
waging war against us/’ 23 or that Hilliard d'Auberteuil was mistaken when, 
much like Malcnfant or Moreau de Samt-Mery, he stated that “slaves easily 
Learn all sorts of trades/* 24 

Even Father Dutertre could not refrain from noting: 

If their bodies have suffered the severe trial of slavery, their souls never¬ 
theless have remained unconqucred. . , . They value themselves as much as 
and more than the masters they serve, . * . 

And Lcmonnier Delafosse: 

The black surrendered himself completely to the flames thus to show 
his enemies he knew how to die* These are the kind of men we have to 
fight. . . * What men these blacks! How they fight and die! You have to 
have fought them to appreciate their boldness, their inflexible courage in 
the face o i danger, ,. . 

Schoclchcr was able to conclude without exaggeration that: 

French generals , * , three years in contact with them arc agreed in say¬ 
ing that they found in these new men not only military ability and valor but 
also talents of the first order* . . . 

In contrast, it is astonishing that Antcnor Firmin, so unexpectedly aligning 
himself against several contemporary witnesses of colonial life who some¬ 
times conceded intelligence and skills to Saint-Domingue blacks, could have 
so lightly and unremittingly denied them any capacity for growth: 

Blacks carried to Saint-Dominguc had no inclinations immediately to 
advance toward higher social forms. Not only was the psychological disposi¬ 
tion lacking, but often in the depths of their being there were ancestral in¬ 
clinations pulling them toward an unfortunate retrogression* . . . 25 

The Maroons of Liberty 89 

Thus the erudite author of The Equality of Human Races stands in contra¬ 
diction to historical truth. However shattered, however tortured and degraded 
he may have been, technically and culturally the slave was well above the 
Indian who, in this land, had preceded him in chains. It is with the advantage 
of being a productive force that he replaced both the Indian, already weak 
and debilitated from easy living and sickness before the genocide effected by 
the Spaniards, and those white slaves, the “thirty-six-month indentured serv- 
ants/’ These whites—Bretons, Normands and Poitcvin workers-—though not 
overwhelmed like blacks by the crushing weight of servitude—demonstrated 
that they lacked the physical strength and courage of the Aradas, Hausas, 
Ibos or Senegalese. The contribution of the African to the prosperity of 
Saint-Dominguc was a major one. This was by no means a race of degen¬ 
erates or “serviceable animals” who made it possible for the colony “to engage 
on its own two-thirds of the trade interests” of the French kingdom. 26 Con¬ 
sidering the frightful conditions of slavery their progress, however modest, is 
far from being commonplace or mere chance achievement. 

And, if the Africans of Saint-Domingue were lacking in aspirations for 
well-being and liberty, if they did not have an astonishing capacity for 
growth, how then could the epic of the Haitian Revolution be explained? 
That the slave, hobbled by chains, prisoner of a brutalizing and diabolical 
regime, could have aspired to such heights and by his courage and his own 
efforts achieved them remains a surprising and admirable feat. This success 
could not have been determined merely by the sociological principle which 
states that "What is a source of moral regression for one may become, in the 
secret exchange that occurs, a stimulus to growth for the other. . . .” 2T 

The slave who, despite the colonist, eked out a relative well-being and, 
by his own courage, achieved liberation from his chains, how could he have 
been that subhuman specimen, formless and stripped of all intelligence and 
aspiration, the slave “devoid of all feeling,” that painful image so many 
whites have wished to perpetuate? How was this supposed degenerate capa¬ 
ble of taking over the country, expelling the masters, and fashioning a disci¬ 
plined people, 29 revealing himself to be an able administrator, builder, and 
inspired strategist, improvising, in the isolation of his language and of his 
new status in the midst of a hostile, slave-holding America, the organization 
and administration of the first republic of free blacks in contemporary times? 

As Father Cabon wrote in a gripping page, how could one not immedi¬ 
ately recognize the worth and the eloquent significance of slaves from a vast 
continent with different customs, civilizations, often different languages, 
achieving “the community of ideas and customs which later became estab¬ 
lished among them,”-* 

As for the causes of marronage, strange as it may be, there is still resist¬ 
ance to the idea of the slave's thirst for freedom, a completely natural desire 
it would seem, when evoked by the animal instict of the hunted beast. Would 
they have the slave even lower on a hypothetical scale of evolution than the 


very beast which manages to kick over the traces? Admittedly, all the so- 
called classic reasons may have brought on occasional flights and recourse 
to marronage, However, we cannot believe that the desire for liberty was 
not also a cause of marronage, Father Dutertre was the first to point out 
the reasons for slave runaways and he abruptly excluded this factor. “To 
explain these flights we must look,*’ he wrote “for reasons other than the 
desire for liberty.” 30 

Father Dutertre limited the causes of runaway marronage to harsh work¬ 
ing conditions, to uprooting and homesickness, bad treatment by masters and 
insufficient food. It is this same statement that colonials and historians of 
the time repeat, denying the slave any aspiration for freedom. 

We are by no means astonished. It is, however, surprising that, in our 
time and despite the broadening of minds, there arc those who adopt the 
same point of view without attempting to analyze the facts except in con¬ 
formity with the prejudices of the colonial period. Of all the present-day his¬ 
torians of marronage, Yvan Debbasch appears to be the most entangled in 
this anachronism, although he may have presented a somewhat advanced 
study of certain aspects of marronage. This self-esteemed, inadequate essayist, 
who vehemently attacked the Haitian school, 31 picks up Father Dutertrc’s 
statement and in support offers imaginary statistics. 

Debbasch in fact wrote: “Statistically speaking it docs not seem to us 
that the will to freedom counted for much as a cause of marronage.” 33 

What are these statistics? Occasionally Debbasch cites one or two edi¬ 
tions of the ^vij Divers du Cap . He went no further in his inquiry. Doubt¬ 
less in order to marshal statistics he must have consulted and interpreted 
with equal superficiality the few rare interrogations of captured Maroons who 
explained their flight, one of whom gave as his reasons fear of punishment 
for having lost a tool or for having allowed a horse to run away, while an¬ 
other stated that he was poorly fed and racked by homesickness and worn 
out by excessive labor, Debbasch classifies the latteris confusion as a patho¬ 
logic case. According to him this Maroon “is sick,” and “he is a Maroon 
precisely because he is sick.” 33 

Cut-rate psychoanalysis.... 

Referring again to the interrogations of blacks, those that have been 
handed down to us arc very rare. No more than thirty, perhaps. Of course, 
Debbasch, who invokes them as if they suffice to corroborate any opinion 
whatever on the causes of marronage, omits citing interrogations in the course 
of which men and women on trial did not shrink from revealing they were 
opposed to slavery and were seeking freedom. There conics to mind the 
black midwives who swore that over a long span of years they had caused 
the death of all the infants they had helped to bring into the world “in order 
to rescue them from slavery.” It is opposition to slavery and the pursuit of 
freedom that is at play in the case of Medor, the black responsible for large- 
scale poisonings, or of the Maroons w p ho dared “to preach independence,” of 

The Maroons of Liberty 91 

Jerome, called Poteau, of Telemaque and the other accomplices in repeated 
nocturnal meetings of more than two hundred slaves in the Marmalade sector 
in 1786/* 

To what motive, then, if not the desire for freedom, was the mass of fugi¬ 
tives responding, those who camped in the woods and inaccessible gorges 
vainly hunted by the police? And why the long list of Maroon chiefs during 
three centuries of resistance to slavery, and how would the memory of their 
rebellion have been perpetuated had they not been able to gather around 
them bands of Maroons and fugitives animated at the peril of their lives by 
the same ideal of forever freeing themselves from bondage? 

As stated, the superficial analyses and the gratuitous statements of this 
author at first sight betray a great agility to say the least. Here in any case 
is the weak, equivocal position of those who deny the slave the desire for 
liberty, refusing even to admit this feeling as one cause of marronage. In 
contrast there is the Haitian school and historians who, like Peytraud, Pierre 
de Vaissierc, or Gaston Martin have held to the contrary point of view, 
recognizing the need for freedom as the determining cause of marronage. 

Finally there is the position of a group of historians like the late lamented 
Father Gabon or Gabriel Debien—a hesitant, subtle position that avoids any 
categorical, definite assertion before marronage has been systematically stud¬ 
ied. There exists in the “Haitian school” a deep-rooted “even aggressive” 
tendency, according to Debbasch’s somewhat scornful expression, to credit 
the slave with an ideal of fredom as the major cause of his flights and there¬ 
fore of marronage. 

Certain historians have characterized this tradition of our historians and 
analysts as romanticism, oratory, oversensitized judgments of writers and, of 
course, excessive racial solidarity. The reproach is justified to the extent that 
the Haitian school has dedicated to marronage rather more enflamed texts 
and patriotic couplets than systematic, serious, and in-depth studies of the 
causes and growth of slave flights. It is nonetheless true that, in crediting 
the slave with the ideal of liberty and by acknowledging this noble aspiration 
of the slave, the Haitian school has aligned itself with the logic of history 
and events when it attributes as the cause of marronage the clearly evident 
and natural love of liberty which is, after all, the very sense of the history 
and liberation of the Saint-Domingue Africans and the pertinent explication 
of all Haitian history. 

Those who contest this position have never tried to prove or succeeded in 
proving the contrary. If with respect to marronage Beaubrun Ardouin, who 
more than any other person inspired the Haitian school, did not examine 
the unknown statistics mentioned by Debbasch or analyze the testimony and 
correspondence of administrators and colonists or the descriptions of Ma¬ 
roons, he nevertheless based his position on history itself. Have they not 
read in the history of Hispaniola and Saint-Domingue that under Ovando, 
Africans introduced to the island only eleven years after the discovery fled 


in groups “and perverted the Indians by exciting them to rebel”? And have 
they not observed the organization of and the sharp increase in slave flights 
and in the incessant practice of marronage, the coming together in bands 
all throughout the colonial period? 

Was there no echo, no voice of History telling of slave uprisings in the 
French, English, Dutch, and Danish West Indies, in Guiana, and in the 
two Americas? 3 * And how could it be that only in Saint-Domingue were 
these forms of rebellion not inspired by resistance to slavery and the desire 
for freedom on the part of blacks sharing the same origins? 

We know there were even some white Maroons in Saint-Domingue* How 
else could they be designated, those engages who, in order to escape the 
obligations of their terms of indenture and working conditions that were too 
harsh, fled their masters for secret hiding places or emigrated to neighboring 
countries? To stop escapes of the indentured, severe punishment was levied 
at the start of the colonial period against these “species of white slaves”; 30 
they were threatened with the fleur-de4ys branding of the shoulder, with 
having an ear severed, or having hamstrings cut* 3T 

These exemplary punishments reveal that many ”thirty-six-months” in¬ 
dentured servants were runaways. How can it be reasoned that men subject 
to a maximum three-year indenture would feel the need to escape before 
term the strictures of a contract freely entered into and at the same time 
attempt to deny other men bound by force and for life to more barbarous 
conditions the need for seeking, through marronage, to put an end to in¬ 
supportable misery? In light of these historic facts can wc really reproach 
Beaubrun Ardouin and those Haitian historians who adopted his line for 
having reached one of the conclusions which for them were inspired both by 
logic and by the history of Saint-Domingue? Hear Ardouin: 

Let us note that to the honor of human nature and that African race for 
all of three hundred years reduced to servile condition, debased and op¬ 
pressed let us note that the love of freedom never ceased to manifest itself 
among the blacks brought from Africa and enslaved in Saint-Domingue, 
They can claim with pride that there were always people among them who 
with heart and soul challenged the European tyranny* , , * Love of liberty 
often incited them to flee the tyranny oppressing them. * . * The blacks 
proved . , . that love of liberty was as strong within them as within other 
people* 38 

We must draw attention to the fact that the Haitian school was not alone 
in attributing to the slave about to enter Maroon life a compelling urge for 
freedom* With respect to the cause of marronage, contemporary historians 
such as Lucien Peytraud, Pierre de Vaissierc or Gaston Martin, who for so 
many years studied Saint-Domingue history, took a position quite similar to 
that of the Haitian group, this without having tested by thorough study of 
slave runaways the bases for their nevertheless positive conclusions* We shall 

The Maroons of Liberty 93 

return to this, admitting for the moment that these historians may have, like 
Ardouin and the entire Haitian school, reached their conclusions more 
through finesse and sentimentality than actual evidence. 

But it is difficult to believe that the minister for the colonies could be 
accused of superficiality and at the same time be regarded as an accurate 
observer of daily colonial life. This minister, who kept close watch on the 
course of operations, was of all observers of the era the most informed and 
the most dedicated to subjection of the slave and disciplining of blacks. Nev¬ 
ertheless it is that principal witness, the minister, who in 1776 would write 
as follows: 'There is no doubt they would have much greater success in 
making slaves lose, if possible, their desire for freedom by easing their lot 
and treating them well.” 39 

To lose, if possible, the desire for freedom! There it is. Is this acknowl¬ 
edgment needed for believing that the Haitian school invented nothing? No 
more so than the words of Lucien Peytraud who concludes that: 

In the Antilles, marronage was a ceaselessly festering wound. There were 
very few plantations which did not experience acts of marronage. It can be 
said that from the time that slaves first appeared in these islands there were 
maroons; and no means of preventing this offence. On the contrary it kept 
on increasing, so native to the human heart is the love of freedom. 10 

Or of Gaston Martin who, going a step further, states, 

. . . that they [the Maroons] will be the first architects of the first eman¬ 
cipation of Saint-Domingue; they were already at that lime for almost a 
hundred years the greatest source of anxiety and the most constant threat to 
the population. 41 

Or yet again Pierre dc Vaissi&re who writes: “To them marronage seemed 
the most striking protest against their depressing condition. As time went on 
the number of maroons only increased instead of diminishing.” 42 

The position of Gabon or Debien is that of the honest historian for 
whom only proof is important. No one has studied more exhaustively the 
colonial past. Father Gabon, who calmly analyzed the history of slavery in 
Saint-Dommguc, ended his most exhaustive study with this cry, so rare in 
his unemotionally written account of the colonial era: “It is impossible that 
the slaves whatever they were did not feel their debasement.** 43 If he did in 
fact suspect the real cause of marronage, his thinking was reticent and very 
subtle. He was scarcely affirmative about the importance of marronage to 
Saint-Domingue or about the gravity of desertions in the socio-economic and 
political life of the colony. 

The opinion of my friend and confrere Gabriel Debien is somewhat 
aligned with that of Father Gabon, It is, however, hedged with disturb¬ 
ing questions, which make it apparent that this major historian of Saint- 


Domingue has not yet formed a definite opinion about the Maroon ideal of 
liberty nor of the eventual linkage between inarronage and the organized re¬ 
bellion that led to the general slave uprising* Here and there, however, amid 
the reservations and hesitations Debien, in the honest passion of a researcher 
and with a burning thirst for proof, questions himself. Debien has studied the 
phenomenon of marronage more deeply than Father Gabon and at much 
closer range. He has seen and analyzed numerous plantation and sugar mill 
records and especially a number of Maroon descriptions* It is not surprising 
to hear him question whether marronage, excluding factors of a general or 
occasional nature, grew out of resistance to forced labor or was related to 
“the desire for liberty at all costs/’ Nor again is one surprised to note, in 
his solid study, Marronage aitx Antilles an XVill Slide , his rather sugges¬ 
tive observations: ft For us, at least, the reason behind some flights defy ex¬ 
planation. That these flights often indicated dissatisfaction, might have repre¬ 
sented a protest there is no doubt. , . . But did it run deeper? Was it a strug¬ 
gle against slavery?’ 74 * 

In the slave world there were, no doubt, those who by temperament were 
resigned, submissive and incapable of revolt* Some who since Africa had 
become accustomed to being a master’s “thing/’ moral and physical weak¬ 
lings, apathetic and contaminated at length by the practice of slavery; the 
infirm, the hopelessly sick, the privileged house slaves content with their lot, 
concubines handsomely rewarded by their masters, certain skilled workers in 
the field gangs or, finally, indoctrinated and cathechised slaves who feared 
eternal damnation. 

The timid, the weak, the credulous and the satisfied—these all existed, 
along with captives incapable of entertaining the slightest impulse to flight, 
prisoners of an unrelenting, vicious discipline. Some among them had no 
other recourse than to “maroon” to death, the ultimate possibility for libera¬ 
tion from chains. It is known that Ibos and Minas were wont to commit 
group suicides* There arc terrifying examples of these dramas of slave despair 
in the form of poisoning, strangulation by swallowing the tongue, hanging, 
drowning, self-mutilation, and abortions practiced especially by Arada 

If there were those who were resigned—and within what limits of real 
submission?—there were also rebels. It is not difficult to believe or to prove. 
Slaves ran away in spite of the kindness of masters. This must be under¬ 
scored to show clearly that marronage responded to an inner voice which his¬ 
torians and analysts have unanimously failed to describe, refusing because of 
prejudice or habit to attribute to the slave a desire for freedom. 

It is a fact that sometimes the purpose of slave flights was to escape 
abuse by overseers, managers, and drivers* However, not enough attention 
has been given the fact that many blacks fled from plantations or factories 
where they profited from the benevolence of their masters. This fact is im¬ 
portant however to the determination of the causes of marronage. Of course, 

The Maroons of Liberty 95 

where we speak of the kindness of masters, it is to an often very relative 
benevolence that we refer. Let this be clear. 

The most eloquent example of this is provided ns by Plantation Breda, 
where Saint-Dominguc bom Bayou de Libertad was overseer on the hold¬ 
ings of Count Louis-Panaleon de Noe. Nephew—and, through his mother, 
Elizabeth de Breda, heir—to the Count de Breda, he was generously solici¬ 
tous of the slave and in general accorded them humane and charitable treat¬ 
ment. Toussaint-Louverturc, a Breda slave, bore witness to this and publicly 
explained his appreciation and his attachment to Bayon de Libertad and his 

There is, in some suggestive correspondence in the National Archives of 
Paris additional confirmation of this overseer’s reputation for kindness, cor¬ 
respondence that relates to the short history of Breda through successive 
overseers. One of these, a Mr. Giliy, was never able to maintain discipline and 
became the sport of the slaves. He was replaced by a fair and firm Bayon de 
Libertad, who was succeeded by a Mr. Del riba!. This irascible and suspicious 
man drove the slaves to ill health with his persecutions. Poisoning was sus¬ 
pected. The storm was gathering. A group of twenty-five slaves escaped 
from Breda. Everyone clamored for the return of Bayon de Libertad, who 
restored order and brought back the fugitives. From that point on (it was 
then the end of 1773), Bayon dc Libertad stayed on until the approach of 
the Revolution, to provide for Breda a reputedly paternal regime which, in 
comparison with the cruelty of other masters, was certainly more humane, 
if indeed it is possible to speak of kindness in slavery. 

Here at Breda will be found proof that, even when under a humane 
master and thus spared the usual hardships and torture, some slaves never 
gave up the idea of liberty. In fact, the mild regime in effect at Breda did not 
prevent a slave companion of Toussaint, a Bambara named Vincent, branded 
“Breda” on both sides of his chest, from going maroon. Unfortunately he was 
arrested at Dondon and jailed in Cap on 23 May 1783. 45 

This was not an isolated case at Breda. Among the same slaves of de 
Libertad, that is, even among Toussaint Louvcrture’s companions of the 
time, we note shortly afterward two other blacks gone maroon from the 
Breda plantation and joined by a young creole: 

Lafortune, a Mondongo black with no brand and a Congo black, Jacob, 
also not branded, both Breda plantation slaves, arrested in Haut-du-Cap and 
jailed on 30 December 1783. 40 

The following month a young slave “born on Breda” escaped. Arrested 
in Cap he was jailed on 20 February 17S4. This was a stocky, fifteen-year- 
old creole, Jean-Louis, branded “Breda” on the right chest, “who said he 
was from Plantation Breda.” 

We cannot speak of the plantation without evoking the still-unsolved 


mystery of the most illustrious of its captives. Like this courageous youth 
above, Toussaint was born at Breda among the canc furrows and the un¬ 
heard sounds of sprouting roots. Thanks to his position as privileged serv¬ 
ant, coachman, and especially as veterinary and herb doctor 17 he enjoyed at 
Breda a liberie de savane* To this favored status, which was his from the 
age of thirty, well before the period of Bayou de Libertad, was added the 
advantage of being able to amass savings, which undoubtedly Toussaint ex¬ 
aggerated in putting at 64S,000 francs. This would amount to 121,000 
dollars, 48 an inconceivable fortune for a slave, even for a poor white or the 
average free black and mulatto. 

Whatever the case, Toussaint, amid all the unrest at Breda in 1773, 
then in 1783, did not budge. At that time he was approaching his forties, 
if in fact he w r as born in 1746. Although puny in appearance, Toussaint had 
hardened himself through physical labor and his passion for horses. In addi¬ 
tion, he possessed a spirited temperament. We see him at eighteen striking a 
Breda clerk, Beage, who without authorization had used a young horse from 
the stable under his charge. By laying hands on a white, Toussaint had risked 
the most pitiless punishment prescribed by the Black Code of the colonial 
regime—hanging. By some miracle the matter was resolved. Beag6 acknowl¬ 
edged his error. 

Slaves ran aw'ay during the days of overseer Delribah Under the admin¬ 
istration of Bayon de Libertad, marronage continued. The hotblooded Tous¬ 
saint still did not budge. It was not money that deterred him. He had never 
needed money. As is known, he lived on cassava and cold water, distribut¬ 
ing his garden produce to his less fortunate companions. In order better to 
secure the loyalty of this fine servant, his masters vainly offered him Breda’s 
“young frisky women,” all crazy about dancing and self-adornment. Tous¬ 
saint, respectful of Christian morality, had chosen for his companion Su¬ 
zanne Simon Baptiste 43 already the mother of a son named Piacide, 50 whom 
Toussaint would adopt as his own son, and would come to love more than 
Isaac and Saint-Jean, bom of his marriage. Around him, sharing his tranquil 
and cloudless good fortune Toussaint had old Pelagic, his adoptive mother; 
his blind old father, who would survive him, not dying until 1804 at the age 
of 105; bis godfather, neighbor-teacher Pierre Baptiste, who taught him to 
read and write; his wife Suzanne and her brothers and sisters; one of the 
latter, Genevieve, was found again living in Cayc at the time of the war in 
the South, 51 

Toussaint had amassed enough money to buy the freedom of the entire 
family, his own included. Yet he did not budge from Breda. He awaited his 
hour. The years passed. We are still at a loss when w'e consider the mystery 
of the hidden life which prefaced so great a destiny. Son-in-law of a Dahomey 
chief, Gao-Guinou, Toussaint voluntarily remained in slavery. He was fifty 

* An unofficial, limited form of “freedom* 1 allowed some slaves. The savane was the 
overall area of the plantation, apart from the big house. 

The Maroons of Liberty 97 

years old. Masters were little inclined to haggle too much over the freedom 
of slaves at that age already prematurely old due to the harsh conditions of 

On the eve of the Revolution beginning in July 1789, administration of 
the three sugar mills left in legacy by Count do Breda in Haut-du-Cap, Plaine 
du Nord, and Bois de Lance passed to Silvain Scguy dc VUlevaleix, 52 named 
as attorney. Bayon de Libert ad remained at Breda and would still be there 
in 1791, in what capacity we do not know. In those years when the storm 
was rumbling in the North, there was a new game of musical chairs with 
overseers at Breda, 

The important Villevaicix correspondence made available to us by Gabriel 
Debien 53 contains very disturbing revelations about the development of 
Breda Plantation, The benevolence of the masters—again we make the 
point—was relative. Even the plantation at Haut-du-Cap was not beyond 
reproach. One might have been led to be suspicious of Bayon de Libertad if 
credence had been given to the envious quarreling among overseers. We 
draw upon Debicn’s valuable documentation as historic truth, without the 
slightest desire to tarnish in any way Bayon's reputation for kindness en¬ 
dorsed by Toussaint himself at a time in his miraculous rise when he scarcely 
had need of Bayon. There were, however, such matters as the liquidation 
of several old slaves, the sale of the mulatto woman Laurence to his father, 
an alarming incidence of sickness and death, inadequate food for the slaves, 
the damage done by fugitive blacks. There was Francisque, a black, dead as a 
result of cruel treatment by the overseer, M. Valsemey, replaced by Mr. 
Labcrtoniere, and especially there was a renewed outbreak of marronage at 
Breda, Nine Maroons were said to be implicated; then twenty-seven others 
were arrested. Breda plantation was far from being a model of sweet tran¬ 
quility. In November 1790 there was in the Cap jail a woman Maroon, 
‘Julienne, picked up on Carenage Hill, 54 a Nago with the Breda brand on 
her breasts and bearing the marks of her country over her entire body, age 
about twenty, claiming to be from Plantation Breda,” 

Toussaint still had not chosen freedom. He was, however, not insensible 
to the plight of his brothers. Later, in a letter to the Directoire Executif, dated 
8 Fructidor An V (26 August 1797), he would relate: 

Born into an unfortunate class, already at the age of fifty when the 
French Revolution which changed my destiny as it changed the destiny of 
the world had its beginning, I had acquired not without danger to myself 
some degree of learning which [these] barbarous laws never permitted us to 
acquire. Born to slavery, but having received from Nature the soul of a free 
man I frequently directed my sighs to the heavens, every day 1 lifted my 
hands to it to pray the Supreme Being to come to the aid of my brothers 
and to deign to shed his grace on us, 55 

Thus w r e come to 1791 in the midst of the public unrest agitating Saint- 


Domingue. One day Toussaint stumbles onto a heated conversation between 
a royalist and Bayon dc Libertad. There is talk of paralyzing the Colonial 
Assembly by an uprising of the work gangs. In a flash the shrewd, intelligent 
Toussaint sizes up the situation, sees how his brothers can profit from it. 
He hazards “a few words in approval of the project, 35 thus entering into the 
plot, demanding as his price the liberation of the slaves who would raise the 
plantations to revolt, for himself a safe-conduct pass guaranteeing him 
against any subsequent prosecution, 50 and, above all, for the mass of slaves 
three days of liberty and suppression of the lash/ 7 

Toussaint maneuvers behind the scenes. He conducts parleys with Jean- 
Francois, Roukman, Biassou, and Jcannot, the Maroon leaders of the gen¬ 
eral revolt. On August 14, near Plantation Lenormant dc Mezy in Morne- 
Rouge, amid cries of *'Liberty or Death 55 , the oath of Bois Caiman cements 
the solidarity of the slaves. 

On August 16 Plantation Chabaud is in flames. At that point the gov¬ 
ernment suspects the existence of a vast conspiracy and searches for the 
leaders on plantatiohs Desgrieux, Flaville and Blin. On the night of the twenty- 
first, Boukman incites plantations Noe, Clement, Flaville, Gallifet, and Turpin 
to revolt and at their head overruns Limbe, then Acul, burning plantations 
and houses and massacring whites. In four days flames cover all the northern 
plain, the insurgents are at the gates of Cap, and a mass of flames has laid 
waste Petite Anse, Quartier-Morin, Limonade, Grande-Riviere, Saint-Su- 
zanne, Dondon, Marmelade, Plaisancc, and Port-Margot. For a period after 
the bloody August nights of 1791, Toussaint is still at Breda, He maintains 
order and watches over the safety of the plantation and the life of Mme. 
Libertad, his master having gone off to assist in the defense of Cap. 

In November 1791 Toussaint, who had previously purchased the freedom 
of Pelagic, his adoptive mother, sends his wife, Suzanne, to the Spanish sector, 
well out of harm's way. He has Mme. Libertad escorted to Cap. Later he 
will ask for Libertad, “old Bayon now at age sixty/ 5 permission to remain 
in the colony, with a subsistence provided by his former slaves in apprecia¬ 
tion “of the fact that in earlier times he treated them humanely/ 5 

It is not until November 1791, after having paid these debts of apprecia¬ 
tion, that Toussaint is ready to rally the insurgents. He enters the ranks as 
an obscure doctor to the rebels. He will not actually begin his extraordinary 
adventure until two years later, 29 August 1793, with his historic call: 

I am Toussamt-Louverturc. ... I have put my hand to vengeance. I want 
Freedom to reign in Saint-Domingue. 

This very lengthy examination of the special case of Toussaint as slave 
will not have failed to demonstrate that Bayon de Libertad was a decent mas¬ 
ter and that in spite of his kindness Plantation Breda was by no means 
spared from marronage. To the contrary! The same may be said for Gallifet 

The Maroons of Liberty 99 

Plantation, the largest in Plainc du Cap, where the slaves were so well treated 
that there was a colonial expression “Happy as a Gallifet black.” And yet we 
see these same Gallifet slaves, at the time of the general uprising, carrying 
as a standard a white child impaled, flinging themselves upon Gdeluc, the 
good agent of the plantation, and strangling him. 58 "Mr. Clement’s assassin 
was a postillion to whom he had always been kind,” 50 

Should there be need for additional easily identified proof of marronage 
from the premises of kind masters, there is the long list of slaves branded 
Charitas who escaped from the P£res de PHopital at Cap, although the 
fathers were so generous and sympathetic and had so much compassion for 
the illnesses of the slaves; there are runaways from priests and missionaries, 
most of whom had demonstrated sympathy for the slave cause* Throughout 
the colony it is openly said that many priests gained “sweet entrance to para¬ 
dise” beside a black concubine, eo raising their little bastards with loving care. 
At least these clergymen did not embrace the “shameful” example of 

* * , those whites who convert their homes into mulatto factories . - * they 
openly engage in the most despicable business imaginable; for 3000 pounds 
on the average they sell mulatto boys still feeding at the breast. 111 

The Saint-Dommgue newspapers frequently publish sale notices, rather typi¬ 
cal in style, placed by colonials leaving the island and desirous of unloading 
their bastards: 

For sale a fine slave girl of twenty-one, with her little mulatto boy, aged 
three. Contact Mr, Duputel, Cat Street near the Prison.* 3 

In 1781 Mr, Fontaine, Director of La Comcdic, sold “a black woman 
age twenty to twenty-two with a little mulatto she gave birth to fifteen days 
ago; she has plenty of milk.” 

Regarding this matter of slaves going maroon in spite of the kindness 
of their masters, wc would not know how to challenge those advertisements 
of captured fugitives jailed in Saint-Louis or Fort Dauphin for having tried 
to escape the doubtlessly less rigorous slave conditions under their own 
fathers or mothers or brothers: 

Jean Baptiste, creole griffe illegible brand on left chest, height five feet 
six inches, says he belongs to his father a free griffe living in Cavillon. 

Ariette, creole woman branded Douge on the right breast {in reversed 
letters) says she belongs to her mother Theresc, free Negress living in 
Leogane.* 3 

Creole Jean-Baptiste, claiming to be free jailed in Fort-Dauphin the 
tenth of this month, branded F.I.F. three times on both sides of the chest. 


heigh! about five feet eight inches, said he previously belonged to his brother* 
one Jupiter a free black. 

Dcscourtilz has emotionally described the dramatic suicide of an Amina 
black and her two children: 

Scarcely debarked and without having experienced any ill treatment at 
the hands of the Messrs, Desdunes who treat their slaves as loving fathers 
their children . . , she was seen wandering off from her work towards the 
banks of the Ester, each moment pausing to measure by sight the depth of 
those limpid waters, and sighing as she raised her eyes to heaven and 
striking her breast. This unhappy mother particularly aroused the interest 
of the senior Desdunes who saw to it that she was treated with great con¬ 
sideration. . . . However he could not make her forget a fate the harshness 
of which was really only imaginary. One morning this woman was found 
drowned with her two children whom she had tied to her waistband so that 
like her they would be saved from slavery. 05 

Here and there the corespondence of benevolent masters reveals that at 
the outbreak of the general uprising no slave hesitated to revolt, and most 
often they were incited to rebellion by house servants, by their own drivers, 
and if there were any, by privileged slaves. James cites this typical example: 

A Port-Margot planter had taught his overseer to read and write, had 
made him free and had willed him ten thousand francs; he had given the 
latter’s mother some land for raising coffee. Yet this black had led into 
revolt the slaves on his master’s and on his mother’s plantations, burned 
them and joined the rebels who gave him an important command. 00 

In much the same fashion we will see the slaves of Jean Baptiste ®erard 
in the South desert the plantations of this just and understanding master, and 
those of Louis-Rene Le Pays de Rourjolly, member of the Conseil cTAgricuh 
lure, and strongly attached to his work force, also join the revolt, after hav¬ 
ing assured their master’s flight to Jamaica, There, as a result of his relation¬ 
ship with an Ibo slave woman a son, Eugene,* 7 would be born and brought 
up with care at Bourbon College. He would become an upright, well-known, 
magistrate and the long-time-presiding jurist of our Court of Appeals (Tri¬ 
bunal de Cassation) before completing his upright and courageous life bathed 
in the veneration and respect due one of his high culture and exemplary in¬ 
tegrity. 0 * We will find that a Grande-Riviere planter, a Mr. Cardineau was 
killed by his two sons whom he had fathered by a black woman and whom 
he had set free from infancy and brought up “with the greatest affection,” 00 
There is no doubt that the kindness of a master could never erase the 
slave’s natural aspiration for freedom and never weaken the permanence of 
so natural and legitimate a reaction. On this subject, Debicn’s statement is 

The Maroons of Liberty 101 

very interesting. Despite his reluctance to include the sense of liberty as a 
cause of marronage, the statement does, in effect, support the liberty thesis. 

There are flights without any explainable cause, at least to us. It is not 
always the master's harshness which prompts the slave to marronage. Some¬ 
times kind masters lose more slaves to marronage than very harsh ones. 
Apparently slaves run away without knowing why, without motive or plan, 

| without foreseeing anything. Every day we see some of them who just the 
day before had killed and salted a pig for several months food supply, with* 
\ out the slightest cause for discontent run off with their wives, children and 
friends. 70 

Debien thus confirms the observation of a Saint-Domingue witness, Girod 
Chantraos, who had noted that “nothing is more common in the better 
work gangs than runaway conspiracies/’* 1 These observations clearly indi¬ 
cate that from the moment the slave was subjected to too severe a discipline 
or to insuperable barriers to a less regulated coming and going, often his first 
concern was to seize the unexpected occasion or circumstance to run away. 
He frequently preferred his liberty in spite of the benevolence of the master, 
without concern about the more difficult life of ad% f enturc, if not hardships, 
he was embarking on once become a Maroon. . . . Thus he opted for the 
adventure with its risks and sufferings, but illumined by liberty. The kindness 
of masters, then, could not prevent marronage. On the contrary, without 
their meaning to do so, it made it easier. In a sense it was true that good 
masters “spoiled” blacks. 

As for the other classic causes of marronage, they do not suffice to ex¬ 
plain an impressive number of flights “without cause.” The descriptions of 
Maroons more than prove this. 

Uprooting? Why then was grand marronage, forgive the term, committed 
en masse by creole slaves born on the island? And why, even in Africa were 
there instances of marronage? Cruelty of the masters? Why then did slaves 
run away from benevolent masters? Harsh labor? Why did house-servants, 
specialized workers, hairdressers, coachmen, valets, nursing mothers with 
their children, and the master’s concubines run off? Insufficient food? Why 
did the well-fed desert: cooks, pastry makers, bakers, waiters in inns and 
fancy lodging houses, and even drivers, privileged slaves who often fleeced 
the other slaves, multiplying their personal gardens and pillaging others with 

Finally, how explain the often very dangerous slave flights by fragile 
boats, sometimes braving the open seas; castaways picked up, captives car* 
ried back to neighboring islands or survivors of these suicide operations 
carried by a favoring wind to an unknown coast, out of reach of their former 
masters, all seeking a chance to escape from slavery? 

Could it be that slaves through whim and, without motivation daily ex¬ 
posed themselves to risk and dangers? These pertinent questions clearly in- 


dicate another reason for marronage, one that can only have been the urge 
for freedom: the inability of even the well-fed, well-treated creole or bossale 
slave, sheltered from the cruelty and abuses of severe masters, to accept 

This was also true of slaves bora in the country and familiarized with 
its way of life not having ever known any other environment than this colony 
where they were born and which they had never left. 

These fugitives, who must be called the Freedom Maroons, existed in 
every period of colonial life. They are not those occasional runaways impelled 
to flight by factors of a general nature, such as epidemics, famines, floods, 
or the great droughts which periodically desolated the parishes, ruining the 
food crops. Daily across the years and in every region of the colony, the 
descriptions of creole and bossale fugitives, both the timid and the aggres¬ 
sive, indicate they were armed with machetes. These comprise the young 
and strong, the old, the sick and disabled field hands, domestics, w r omen, 
and drivers. 

As for the new blacks from all the “nations' 1 in the slave-trade area, 
how many had no sooner debarked, had not yet been confronted with the 
rigors of slavery, had often not yet been branded, yet took to flight, incapable 
of making themselves understood or unable to speak a known language, 
ignorant of the Christian names given them, or those of their masters, far less 
knowing whether the latter was kind or harsh—who fed his slaves well or 
who brutalized them with work? 

Let us move one step further. How could these new blacks end up, as 
if by chance, at secure hiding places in the mountains even “with the Span¬ 
ish” immediately after arriving in an unknown country, the language and 
geography of which they did not know? By setting out directly toward the 
deep gorges or to the east, to find unerringly “Spanish land,” where by intui¬ 
tion they knew they would perhaps find work and wages, or even if in bond¬ 
age find humane treatment? Did they find their way by pursuing some glow¬ 
ing image, however vague, of freedom regained? By organizing their stages 
on an unknown route, finding shelter, sometimes so cleverly from the 
comings and goings of patrols or of the constabulary? By an apparently 
chance finding of a hidden refuge for sleeping, eating, and drinking, and by 
guessing, also miraculously, the route to the next halt at dawn's earliest 

What then were the Maroons pursuing on the open sea, in the forests, 
on inaccessible mountain peaks, or beyond the frontiers, the mass of creole 
or new blacks picked up by the hundreds and brought back from “Spanish 

Here we touch upon the heart of the problem posed by these slave flights 
and the multiple plots linked to them. The answer to these questions is sim¬ 
ple and without rebuttal except by those who would still deny these runaway 

The Maroons of Liberty 103 

new blacks any ideal whatever of liberty or who would contest the evident 
solidarity demonstrated in the pursuit of that liberty. 

What other alternative could there possibly be to this stubborn persistence 
in denying the evidence? To believe perhaps that each of these fugitives 
cither scarcely debarked or even still back in Africa knew by some gift of 
divination that “Spanishland* 1 was a refuge? That thus informed, they headed 
for this land of shelter in providentially organized stages with maps and 
itinerary, provided simultaneously with interpreters and guides supplied 
from heaven and, in addition, found upon arrival a welcoming committee 
also descended from heaven? 

Do they prefer a history seasoned, like some fairy tale, with grotesque 
science-fiction episodes, to the dazzling irrefutable truth of the existence of 
these Maroons athirst for liberty and of the clandestine networks in the 
slave world organizing and facilitating escapes? 

And those imposing, seasoned, and active Maroon bands which were 
ready to staff and enlarge the general slave uprising in 1791, did they de¬ 
scend from the heavens? Had there not been the common practice of mar- 
ronage in the name of Liberty, and the hope of permanently protecting this 
freedom from the daily perils of secrecy; by what contributions could the 
armed rebellion have so suddenly grown? How could there have been so 
suddenly consolidated a force for the rapid and devastating explosion it un¬ 
leashed in the northern parishes while waiting to spread the flames to the 
four comers of the colony? Certainly, it could not have been improvised* 

Marronage among the new blacks is a subject loaded with burning 
questions and with a long trail of light attached to the feet of the fugitive. 
Marronage, we know, was a very common recourse and very current in the 
latter days of the colony as it had been earlier* Wish it or not, this approach 
leads us far away from the idea of a simple malady of the colonial system* 
We are confronted not with fugitives interested i n timid , short -lived esca¬ 
pades, but with true rebels—aggressive, determined* a nd hos tile to slavery. 
What is more, how could we not, in all logic, end up with the indispensable 
complicities, the secret organizations, and the hidden networks of resistance 
to slavery? 

In spite of contrary reactions, including apparent submission which, in 
any case, could not have been sincere nor desired, a like solidarity and 
desire for liberty permeated the slave world. To the surprise of the colonists, 
the future would show that the general slave revolt was aided by house 
servants with their cars to the ground in the big house, 72 by the very drivers 
who nevertheless filled the role of assistant executioners in the work gangs, 
who were scorned for their black skin yet heaped with advantages, favors, 
and privileges, harvesting the master’s confidence as well as the fear of the 
slaves* The fact is both surprising and suggestive* But we move too swiftly* 
The history of marronage is a long one, full of sudden starts and retrogres¬ 
sions, always dynamic* For a full understanding, it must be discovered step 


by step and patiently analyzed in depth so as to reveal its progression. For 
the time being we will consider the spirit of liberty that marronage itself 
encouraged. The descriptions leave not the slightest doubt on this subject 
Nor does history. 

In reality, Saint-Domingue was faced with the problem of Africans dif¬ 
ficult to contain. This nati ve pride was sharply characterized, as were the 
strengths or defects, the t raditions , customs and beliefs which marked the 
Haitian people, direct descendants of the slave. Assuredly, slavery and its 
sequelae, association with libertvTethnic crossings, diverse cultural influences, 
and our own conditions of life have kneaded and ground this ancestral heri¬ 
tage in their crucible. In spite of this, some moral or physical characteristics 
will have been perpetuated or strengthened by the dominant imprint of 
Africa: The increase in height, the refinement by Western standards of facial 
features, the sculptured beauty of the women and tlieir brightness of eye, 
the dazzling smile of which each burst with its whiteness of teeth was nour¬ 
ished by the milk of centuries before being entrusted to the care of sugar 
cane; the lines of the neck, the queenly bearing fashioned by the carrying 
of heavy baskets balanced on the head over trails tracked by so many gen¬ 
erations, their liking for dress and ornamentation, the graceful sway of their 
walk; a decided artistic sense with an innate gift for dance, music, and paint¬ 
ing. A patient resignation and a smiling philosophy of life. A liking for 
palaver and also—why hide it—a certain propensity for subterfuge, mischiev¬ 
ousness, libertine ways, vagueness, love of exaggeration and the abuse of 
authority. It would be a mistake to attempt, in passing, an indication of the 
amount and extent of the heritage in every domain, 

A characteristic native pride is precisely the essential quality denied the 
slave in the restricted listings of the reasons for marronage. Far too long has 
this possibly natural ideal of liberty been contested. Consequently, the history 
of marronage has been enmeshed in reservations and the reproaches heaped 
so unjustly on the Haitian school. It is however a matter of evidence* 

Was it by accident that in his well-known, now-classic chart of the 
“nations” which insured the populating of the colony that Moreau de Saint- 
Mery strove to emphasize that almost all the Africans imported to Saint- 
Domingue were by nature quick to rebellion? Here are Saint-M^ry’s state¬ 
ments, to which every historian of Saint ■'Domingue has indiscriminately re¬ 
ferred without ever, and with absolutely no exceptions, having sought to 
extract therefrom the notations relating to the natural pride of the African 
“nations” brought to Saint-Domingue in the slave trade. Yet it is important 
information that no one has ever been able to contest, and contained in a 
document that no historian or essayist has ever ceased to draw upon with 
confidence and respect as being the one and true Genesis of the populating 
of the Antilles by the black victims of the slave trade* 

What does Saint-Mery have to say? 73 

The Maroons of Liberty 105 

The Senegalese intelligent , . . warlike and seasoned * . . demonstrate in 
their mentality the marks of a superior species, [The Yolofs] are very much 
the same* [The Cangas, Mesurades, Bourriquis, Miserables are] very tough 
blacks, quick to revolt. [The Minas, Agouas, Socos, the Caplaous and the 
Fantins from the Gold Coast] generally very intelligent [are] very proud, 
quick to take their own lives , . * their haughty character makes it difficult 
to manage them. 

Intelligence is a characteristic common to all the Africans of the Gold 
Coast and the Slave Coast , * . of whom the Aradas and Dahomeys are well 
known for their ferocity. The Ibos and Minas hang themselves in groups 
and many colonists dread buying any of them. [The Mozambique^ are] 
very intelligent* , . * One cannot flatter oneself with having bent them to 

As for the Mondongos, Mousombfis and Malimbes, Saint-Mery, as though 
to emphasize their scarcely gentle customs, drew attention to “their sharp- 
cned incisors.'” Sufficiently suggestive? 

To complete the listing of the basic elements in the peopling of Saint- 
Dominguc, there remain the Mandingos, and the Bambaras, of whom it is 
said—this is by no means apparent—that they can be bent to servitude; the 
minor groups of Peuls, Quiambas, and Mokos, whose importation was lim¬ 
ited; and finally the Congos from the Angola and Congo kingdoms, who 
were in the eighteenth century “the most numerous imports to Saint- 

Now it happens—and we shall see this in the analysis of Maroon descrip¬ 
tions—that these same slaves, so much in demand for “their happy and 
sprightly character” and reputed to be “gentle and malleable,” were by far 
the most inclined to be Maroons. 74 Clearly, even taking into account their 
numerical importance in the populating of the colony, their percentage of 
Maroons is proportionately greater than that of the other ^nations,” The 
supposedly native adaptiveness 75 of the African to slavery was, all things 
taken into account, a legend difficult to kill* It will be granted that the Saint- 
Domingue slave, in the beginning Sudanese and Guinean, then in dominant 
proportion Bantu, because of their very origins must have ill adapted to 
bondage and that they could and did have the desire to free themselves 
from servitude. 

Is there any other explanation for the miracle of the eruption on the 
world stage of a people by its own efforts liberating itself from chains and 
crowning with an extraordinary and unique epic the multiple, incessant, and 
anonymous exploits of the Maroons of Liberty? 

We have shown in these preliminary notes that the so-called classic rea¬ 
sons for marronage were abusively incomplete and limited. We believe we 
have proved that marronage could also have been dependent on a cause that 
was none other than slave insubordination and the desire for freedom. It 
will now be a question of determining if these Maroons in freedom were as 


numerous as we believe or were simply exceptions. What was their real 
percentage in slave flights? Put another way, was marronage for the most 
part a simple slave sickness, related to chance and accidental causes, or was 
it a powerful, tenacious, incessant, and at times organized battle against 
the regime? 

Commentaries, deductions, and statements however pertinent, no longer 
suffice. Only the facts can, from this point on, count in the debate we intend 
to engage for the honor of the Haitian school. 

We must now proceed to the examination—a fairly intensive examina¬ 
tion—of Maroon descriptions. These advertisements are numerous and sug¬ 
gestive enough for deepening the inquiry and for providing a serious basis 
for examination. It is especially within them that a precise answer to these 
inquiries may still be found. Arc not these descriptions the last available rafts 
on which we may journey to a rendezvous with the Saint-Domingue Maroons 
on the shores of the past? What is proposed at this point is a detailed analysis 
of Maroon descriptions which, as wc have seen, shed new light on the 
history of marronage, as it docs on the unfamiliar face of the Saint-Domingue 

Spread over some thirty years, 1764 to 1793, these descriptions number 
in the thousands. The total of forty-eight thousand Maroons described or 
simply announced in the advertisements represents a solid base for investi¬ 
gation and analysis. The physical and other slave characteristics, the various 
forms of marronage, the names, status and occupation of proprietors or fugi¬ 
tives, the latter’s age, sex, height, national origin, the places where they were 
recaptured, their clothes, evidences of the illnesses or the cruelties of slavery 
-—all these constitute a very rich, still-unexplored documentation. We can 
thus be on our way toward important if not final conclusions. 

For this analysis, we wilt group information provided by the following 
newspapers, all part of the important collections of the Bibliothfique Nation- 
ale de Paris and the Bibliotheque de Moreau dc Saint-Mery, kept in the 
Archives de la France d’outrc-mer also in Paris: 

La Gazette de Saint-Domingue 

Avis divers et petites A ffichcs Americaines 

Les Affiches Americaines {Supplement et Feuiile du Cap Franfais) 

Journal de V Assembles provinciate de la par tie du Nord de Saint-Domingue 

ct Nouveltes de Saint-Domingue 

Gazette de Saint-Domingue ct Affiches Americaines 

Courier de Saint-Domingue et Affiches Americaines 

Courier National de Saint-Domingue 

Moniteur general de la par tie frangaise dc Saint-Domingue 

Journal general de Saint-Domingue 

Assembles colon tale de la panic frangaise de Saint-Domingue 
Proces-verbaux des stances ct Journal des Dchats 

La Sentinellc du Peupte or Journal des Seances et Proces-verbaux de 

The Maroons of Liberty 107 

f A ssem blee co Ionia It 

Journal politique de Saint-Domingue, edited by a member of the Assembles 

La Gazette du Jour 
Journal de Port-au-Prince 
VObservateur colonial 
La Gazette des Cayes 
A ffi ch es A mericaines 

Journal des Revolutions de la Partie Fran$aisc de Saint-Domingue 
UA viseur du Sud 

Bulletin officiel de Saim-Domingue { 1) 7a 

To facilitate the examination of these descriptions and the varied infor¬ 
mation to be found in the journals, we have organized the rest of this book 
into the following sections developed consecutively and in detail: 

Maroon Characteristics 
The Victims of Marronage 
Analysis of Marronage 
A Chronology of Marronage 

NOTES, pp. 83-108 

L In an account of his stay in Saint-Dominguc published in 1787 and cited by Vais- 
si&re, p. 274, Count de C. describes the gay, comfortable, well-ventilated houses 
in Cap which, nevertheless, he sometimes considered to be in bad taste. ‘The archi¬ 
tects/’ he assures, “are frequently none other than slaves.” 

2. Brushing the teeth was unknown in the France of that era. This health habit is 
rather recent in Europe and has not evolved as much as one might think. The 
Paris daily, Le Monde, of 24 March 1972 reported as follows: “One Frenchman 
in four uses a toothbrush. In 1970 in more than fifteen percent of the households 
five people used the same toothbrush. Overall, fewer than 10 percent of the French 
people regularly clean their teeth.” 

3. See Jean Fouchard, Les Marrons du Syllabaire. 

4. The meringue derived from the carabinier and has become our national dance. It is 
certain that the meringue was known, sung, and danced in its original form during 
the colonial period. The word meringue derives from the mouringue dance of the 
Mozambiques, See our work, La meringue, danse nationals tfHaiti Iambi is a sea- 
shell. Banza is an African violin. 

5. Saint-Mcry, I, 109. 

6. Fouchard, Le Theatre a Saint~Domingue t Artistes et repertoire des scenes de Saint- 
Domingue , 

7. Fouchard, Plat sirs de Saint -Doming u e . 

8. On colonial guildIves Dutrone la Couture published a 383-page abstract on cane 
recommending replacing the sugar boilers. 

9. See Madiou: Histolre d'Haiti, I, p. 44. In 1842, rush mattings weighing 335,212 
pounds were exported from Haiti. 

10, King of France and of Navarre, Prince of L^ogane. . , * This, according to P. 


Labat, was the title offered the king by tbe Consei! Sup£rieur de Sainl-Domingue 
and which he refused. 

11, S.AA. 7 February and A.A. 21 April 1784, 

12. Fouchard: Plaisirs de Saint-Domingue. 

13* S.A.A* II September 1784. 

14. In the noisy debates of the Estatcs-Gcneral, the contrary was declared: “Every¬ 
body knows that the latter (the whites) are the haves and do nothing; that the 
others (the slaves) direct and perform the work, do everything. , * /* Speech by 
Viefville des Essarts. 

15. Saint-Miry, I, 47* 

16. Father Gabon, I, 93, 

17* The sayings were “The good people of Guadeloupe,* “the Martinique gentlemen** 
and “the lords of Saint-Domingue," 

18, Malenfant, cited in Les Matrons du Syllabaire , pp. 15-16* 

19* D6scourlilz, 111 t p, 143. 

20, According to Corncvb, Histoire de VAfrique II, 273, “Ifc Art (terra cotta and 
bronze) may be dated from the thirteenth century.** 

21* On this subject* see an interesting article in Le Monde, Paris* 9 February 1971* 

22* Descourtitz, 111, p* 116. 

23. Cited by Louis E. Elie, Histoire d* Haiti* 

24* Hilliard cTAuberleuil, op, dr., I, 141* 

25. An ten or Firmin, Le President Roosevelt et la Ripublique d'Haiti, 1905, p. 238* 

26. Pamphile de Lacroix, II, 277* 

27* Firmin, op. df», p. 245* 

28. SchoelCher’s remark, 

29* Gabon, I, 90* 

30. Dulertre, Histoire ginirale des A rtf Hies, Paris 1762, t. II, pp. 534-537 (4* Lk 12 
BNP), Here is Father Dutertre’s exact statement placed in context: “I don't 
want to deny that the desire for freedom which is natural to alt men may be a 
predominant reason for slaves running away since they are neither stupid or so 
ignorant not to understand the excellence of the good they have lost. However, I 
dare say that whatever passion for liberty with which nature endows them as well 
as all other men this is not the strongest motive which drives them to escape servi¬ 
tude through flight. * * * [For the blacks, according to Dutcrtre] “the w r hole world 
ts their Fatherland so long as it provides them food and drink. They sell them¬ 
selves off to escape the hardships of their own land; they consider themselves 
happier to be slaves when they are passably fed and treated kindly and this is why 
wo must seek other reasons for their flight than the desire for freedom,” 

31. Speaking of the Haitian school and citing the works of Jean Price Mars, Etienne 
Charlicr and Jean Fouchard, Mr, Deb base h declares in text; ‘Theirs is biased, 
violent history, developed upon gratuitous assertions and scornful, if need be, of 
the most incontestable facts,* 

32. Yvan Debbasch, Le marromgc: Essai sur la desertion de VeSclave anti! lab r in 
VAnnie Sociologique , 3* s^rie* Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1962, 1963, 
p. 40, 

33* Debbasch, op. dr., p. 20. 

34. See Revue d r Histoire des Colonies Francoises, January-February 1929, p, 72* 
Archives Nationales FE 192 and 27 AP 12. Papiers Francois de Neufchateau. 

35. In Brazil Gilberto Freyrc has published many runaway-slave advertisements. As in 
Guyana, Jamaica or Martinique, marronage objectives in Brazil w'erc the same 
and vested the fugitives with the same behavior, with massive and periodic rebel¬ 
lions, In Mexico the story of the Maroon leader Yanga is know'n. His name was 

Notes 109 

given to St Lorenzo de los Negros, a town in the state of Vera Cruz. See Dr. 
Jos6 Pavia Crespo: Mexico a troves tos siglos , Tome III* 

36. The term is from Moreau de Saint-M£ry L 45. 

37. See Adrien Dess ales, Histoire ginirale des Antilles. 

38. Beaubrun Ardouin, Histoire d* Haiti, I, 49. 

39. Letter from the minister to the administrators of Guyana. See also the work of 
Father Gisler, in which are cited this document (op, cir, t p, 110) and similar 
letters to the administration at Saint-Domingue, 

40. Peytrmd, op, cit, f p. 343* 

41. Gaston Martin, op, c/L, p. 128, 

42. P. de Vaissiere, op, cit, t 11, p. 541. 

43. Father Gabon, op, cit,, II, p. 54 L 

44. Debien, op, cit,, pp. 41, 43, 

45. A,A„ 18 June 1783. 

46. A.A, t 7 January 1784* 

47. Herb doctor, 

48. This evaluation is taken from Ration du Gink on la Legon de Toussaint-Louver- 
ture, written by our lute lamented colleague, Timoleon C, Brutus, 1945, I, p. 54. 

49. Not only did Suzanne Simon Baptiste know how to read and write, but she had 
achieved a higher level of education than Toussaint Breda, Dr, Marvel Chatillon, 
an eminent physician and history buff, resident some twenty years in Guadeloupe, 
has among his rich collection the only letter extant signed by Suzanne Simon. 
The handwriting is much firmer and the phrasing less awkward than in the very 
rare notes and letters In Toussainfs own hand. Thus we can appreciate that 
Toussaint would have chosen to join his life and destiny with this worthy 

50. Placide, the son of a colored man, will nevertheless be more faithfully attached to 
his adopted father. In the course of his moving about Toussaint was to have two 
natural children: a son, D id ine-Gustave, and a daughter, Zizine, born respectively 
at L£ogane and Artibonitc, Attributed to him is a longstanding relationship with a 
Rosstgnol-Dcsduues, and with Mme. Descahaux, a rich Gonaives creole who had 
a daughter already ten years old in 1791 ( Gazette de $.£>.), not to mention “the 
locks of hair and love letters" which General Boudet supposedly discovered cither 
In a chest or a cupboard in Port-au-Prince. And the attribution of direct descend¬ 
ants outside the line of Isaac which a number of Haitian families claim? Thomas 
Madiou mentions a lady Fisson, “a w T hite woman of rare beauty, 1 * supposedly 
Toussaint's mistress. This author tends to paint Toussaint as a gallant, fond of 
women of whatever color whose favors he obtained on the strength of his author¬ 
ity, not hesitating “to boldly lay hands on their charms,' 1 

51. A very young Geoevifeve was sold to a white man who took her to Cayes, See 
Ardouin, Tome V, p. 44, 

52. He would be grandfather to Charles Seguy Villevaleix in turn reputed to be de¬ 
scended from a son whom Sonthonax is said to have fathered during his long and 
passionate affair with Eugenic Bl£jae, What is most reliably know-n is that, before 
meeting Sonthonax, Eugenie had married a Mr. Villeavalcix, Furthermore it is as 
Mme. Vil lea vale ix that she is listed upon departure of L'hidkn, aboard which Son¬ 
thonax, ousted by Toussaint-Louverture, embarked in the roadstead off Cap 
24 August 1796 (7 Fnictidor). 

53. G. Debien, Etudes A ntillaises, Paris, 1956, See Les debuts de la revolution de 
Saint-Domingue vus des plantations Brida, 

54. Journal ginirat de Saint-Domingue, 3 Novembre 1790, 

55. A. F. II 210, n. 97. Cited by H. P. Sannon in Toussaint-Louverture I, p. L 


56. Sannon I, 88. Pauleus Sannon has consulted at length documents on the still un¬ 
solved mystery of Toussaiafs secret life, 

57. B. Ardouin, Etudes sur VHistoire tTHalil, edition Francois Delencour, I, 51. 

58. Blanche Maurel: Le vent du targe ou le destin tourmenti de Jem-Baptiste Girard, 
colon de Saint-Domingue, p. 227. 

59. Bryan Edwards: Histoire de Saint-Dommgue depuis 1789, Paris 1812, p, 28, 

60. Mss, 880. Bibliothequc dc Nantes. See Jean Fouchard, Plaisirs de Salnt-Domingue, 
p. 49. 

61* Hilliard d'Auhertcuil. The figure given seems highly exaggerated, 

62. A. A., J9 October 1783. 

63. S.A.A ,, 18 June 1783, 

64. SJkJL., 20 July 1771. 

65. Deseourtilz, op, cit ,, HI, 131. 

66. Les Jacobins noirs t Gallimard, Paris, 1949, p. 81, 

67. Eugene w-as also the name of the son of Maric-Charlottc, wife of Rolin des Cayes, 
w f ho, like Ren£, u f as a daughter of Louis le Pays and Marie Beaudouin, Ren£ put 
up for sale (Gazette dc SJ>„ 27 April 1791) a plantation in Etang des Roscaux, 
four leagues from the city of Cayes comprising one hundred carreaux in coffee, a 
mill, w arehouse, five slave houses and thirty-four slaves. 

68. Notes from Duracin6 Pouilh, See the anonymous brochure A la memoire d*Engine 
Bourjolly, issued at Port-au-Prince, by lmpri meric A mb lard. Eugene Hour jolly, 
his studies completed, had rejoined his mother who had gone back to the country. 
This Ibo woman, who became the mother of Eugene BourjoJJy —the author's great 
grandfather on the maternal side—was called Chounc. She died at age 105 in 
l'Anse*ii-Veau long after Independence, 

69. Edwards, op, cit. t 105, 

70. G. Debien, Le Marronage aux Antilles Francoises an XV HI siicle, Caribbean 
Studies, Rio Picdras, Puerto Rico, 1966, p. 41, 

71. Girod Chantrans, op. df„ p. 161. 

72. Thanks to the house slaves, the blacks knew everything that was going on; for 
the very one who seemed devoted to his master in maintaining slavery was but a 
spy dissembling with an art known only to Africans and to w r hich Europeans always 
fell prey,” Malcnfant, p. 114, 

73. Saint-Mery, I, pp. 47*54. 

74. Saint-Mery nevertheless said of the Congos: 'They can be reproached with being 
a bit inclined to flight/' 

75. Like the always great number of maroons, the permanence of the revolts tends to 
cast serious doubt on the justification for this partisan assertion." Gaston Martin, 
op, e/L, 102. 

76. On the Saint-Domingue press, sec the list by M. A. M6nier and G* Debien com¬ 
pleting Father Gabon's list, in Revue d'Histoire des Colonies, Tome XXXVI, 
1949, 3rd and 4th trimesters, nos. 12-128, pp, 424-475, 




National Origins 

ALMOST ALWAYS public notices specified the "'national origin 1 ’ of the 
Maroon* The advertisements of arrivals of slave cargoes and of slave sales 
also identify the source of the cargoes. Thus it is indicated from what part of 
Africa the slave was uprooted for transport to Saint-Doniingue* As for Ma¬ 
roons, the failure to obtain this information from those who were imprisoned 
or sold as strays was due to the fact that many of the newly arrived Africans 
persistently refused to give any information whatsoever, “refusing to tell,’* or 
else unable, sometimes for want of interpreters, to make themselves under¬ 
stood, “unable to tel! own name or master’s,” 

When the record specifically states, “refuses to talk,” it is very clear that 
the statement refers to a confirmed rebel, inflexible in his hatred of slavery 
and determined to seize the first opportunity for a new escape attempt* A few 
of these aggressive, determined Maroons even succeeded in escaping from 
jail. The records show a number of these escapes. Throughout, the designa¬ 
tions of "national” origins arc current and profuse* As absolutely new data, 
they serve to clarify the history of the slave trade, which is the history of the 
populating of the Haitian nation* In addition, the slave trade will be shown 
to have in more general fashion profoundly affected three continents in dif¬ 
ferent ways: feudal and imperialistic, the Europe of slave ships and traffickers 
in African slaves; an Africa mutilated and torn asunder, and over three cen¬ 
turies drained of millions of her most robust sons and daughters who were 
to become easy prey to colonial exploitation, Africa for so long denied the 
road to rediscovery of its original culture; America f recipient of this traffic, 
sown with suffering and revolts for bringing forth in grief so many peoples 
still bearing the mark of Africa, 

Although marked by invasions, conquests, periodic spurts from and re¬ 
turns to barbarism (and thus strewn with the cadavers of civilizations) his¬ 
tory offers no example of a more dramatic upheaval, of the transfer of cap¬ 
tured populations on such a scale, or of a stranger experience in adaptation* 
Nor docs history reveal a like economic and demographic upheaval of so 
scandalous a commercial operation of such scandalous proportions involving 
the exploitation of a continent, Africa, in order to exploit the resources of a 
second continent, America, for the profit of a third continent, Europe* 



The populating of Saint-Dominguc by the slave trade drew upon a vast 
geographic area embracing an infinity of nations or peoples given diverse and 
incorrect designations, difficult to differentiate. Of these, the listing provided 
by Moreau de Saint-Mery* also the listing compiled by Robert Richard from 
the Saint-Domingue Notary Records* 1 and the ethnic descriptions by Des- 
courtilz and by Malenfant present us with such a diversity as can lead only 
to confusion. We ourselves have added to these lists certain designations 
taken from the Saint-Domingue press and apparently indicative for the most 
part of villages rather than actual ethnic groups* 

Quite fortunately, after 1780 the Cap and Port-au-Prince newspapers 
tended to reduce the profusion of localities in describing slaves. Maroons, or 
blacks for sale in the markets to the great ethnic groups to which they be¬ 
longed. It is because of this that the following compilation is a sort of random 
collection, making it very difficult to extract the most solid contributions and 
the correct elements in the basic formation of the Haitian people: 

Aida, Aguia or Ala* Arada, Aminas* Akreens, Assiantheens, Angouas, 
Adtola* Adou, Altapa, Aoussas, Bambara, Bana Banguia, Bibi, Bary* Bin- 
guelle, Bobo, Beurnou, Bissayol, Blancs or Albinos, Bouriquis, Eoulard, 
Balou, Bisi* Caplaou, Congos, Franc-Congo, Haul Congo, Bas Congo, Coto- 
coli, Crepeens, Coussa, Chouchou* Canga, Congos-ontcgue* Coucouly, Cou- 
cha, Corossol, Coulange, Coda, Daban, Dangoua, Dombot, Dioula; 

Flda, Fouida, Fantin, Fonds, Foules, Giuola, Gabon, Gamba, Gabary, 
Guimba, Ibos* Kiffes, Limba, Mozambiques, Mai's* Maquouas, Mandingues, 
Malingucs, Mazombis, Moussombis, Mines, Miserables, Mokos, Mounanau, 
Mondongues, M allay, Mombala, Mefougi, Mayombe, Maindou* Male, Molo, 
Mozazi, Moucou, Mayonca; 

Nago, Nenne, Ouanouy, Ouaircs, Quatizi* Poulards* Phylanis, Quichi* 
San gal a* Solongo, Souraea, Songui, Souba, Senegal* Socos, Sosso, Sozo, 
Soudy, Tapa, Thopa, Tcnemcn, Thiambas or Tiambas, Tacoua, Timbou* 
Urba* Yoloffs, Yobo, Yaguia, Yaya, Zozeau. 

As readily seen, one gets lost among the different appelations of groups 
or subgroups among differing designations for the same ethnic groups, as 
well as in the naming of little cantons not located geographically, not to 
mention the different ways of spelling the same “nation.” 

It would seem less confusing to use only the ethnic descriptions drawn 
for the most part from announcements of slave sales and from the descrip¬ 
tions of Maroons. Particularly after 1780, public announcements of runaway 
slaves depended less on the names of subgroups for these designations while, 
beginning in 1764, sales bulletins generally indicated national origins, or at 
least in the larger sense, the great ethnic groups, with accuracy. From that 
period these announcements lead us more surely along the route to determin¬ 
ing the “nations” and groups actually representing the original roots of the 
Haitian people. On this we will elaborate subsequently. For the moment, on 

National Origins 115 

the basis of these contemporary descriptions %ve will attempt to establish 
three major categories under which these “nations”—forebears of the Haitian 
people—may be grouped, keeping in mind the geographic boundaries sug¬ 
gested by Saint-Mery in his guide to the nomenclature of the slave trade to 

To us the most simple classification is the one adopted by Father Gabon. 
It is in any case less hazardous than a classification based solely on the 
spread of a religion—Islamized slaves, for example—or upon a common lan¬ 
guage or the melding of common political or social interests. Also to be 
considered are the upheavals that had already marked the dismantling of 
certain West African kingdoms, mutations, transfers, and new organizations 
of populations during civil wars and invasions that preceded the slave trade. 

The pedantic Africologist will undoubtedly find here and there in the 
proposed classification some point of detail not in conformity with these 
basic norms. Nevertheless, this classification is at once the closest to reality 
and the one that best registers within its broad design the origins of our 
Saint-Domingue ancestors. 


Under this heading will be grouped the various races of the West Afri¬ 
can littoral or the neighboring communities along the borders of the Senegal, 
the Gambia, and the Niger, beginning with the slave ports of St. Louis, then 
down to Gorec and continuing south to the Cape of Palms: Senegalese, 
Yoloffs or Ouloffs, Calvaircs, Peuls or Poulards, Toucouleurs, Bambaras, 
Mandingos, Bissagots, and Sossos. 


The peoples living farther south, though still north of the equator, in all 
of the region bathed by the Gulf of Guinea and especially including the 
Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast, and the Gold Coast: Cangas, Bourriquis, Mis- 
erables, Mesurades, Caplaous, Nagos, Mines, Minas, Yorubas, Thiambas, 
Fonds, Agousas, Socos, Fantins, Mahis, Dahomets, Arad as, Cotocolis, Fid as, 
Haoussas, Ibos and the Mokos of Benin. 


Those living below the equator, principally in the Congo and Angola 
kingdoms, which marked the limits of the French slave trade: Congos, 
Francs Congos, Mousombis, Mondongues, Malimbcs, Angolcs. To these will 
be added, toward the end of the colonial period, the Mozambiques who were, 
together with a very small handful of Africans of different origins from 
Madagascar and from the Isle of Maurice,- the only representatives from 
East Africa. 

It is generally conceded that the populating of Saint-Domingue by the 


slave trade was first assured by the Sudanese group and then by drawing 
upon the Guinean groups (Guinea Coast and Gold Coast) and the Bantu 
group (Congos, Angolas, Mozambique^). Historians and ethnologists have 
grappled with this major problem* anxious to discover our true origins, with¬ 
out arriving at solid proof or definitive conclusions. One certain fact is that 
the slave trade to the colony was originally limited to the slave ports of St 
Louis and Gorce, bringing to Saint-Domingue captive Senegalese, Yolofs, 
Calvary, Peuls, Bambaras, and Mandingos among others. 

The confusion begins with the second phase of slave importation to Saint- 
Domingue. If it is known that the Guinean group early replaced the Sudan¬ 
ese group in supplying the colony with bois d’ebene, scarcely any attention 
has been paid to the predominance during the later colonization of the 
“arrivals” of the Guinean group that was then continuing or of the Bantu 
group described in force during the same period. Now the prime purpose of 
every inquiry into this subject is to reveal clearly our original roots, that is, 
the larger ethnic groups which during the last half century before independ¬ 
ence might have been our nearest ancestors, those who actually marked us 
with their moral or physical characteristics or more deeply influenced and 
rounded our cultural heritage. 

Were they Guineans or Bantus? There is no precise answer to this ques¬ 
tion. In search of the key to this enigma we have examined in turn Voodoo 
and oral traditions, correspondence of the colonists, Saint-Domingue notary 
records, bills of lading of slave-ship owners, and the rolls of work gangs, 
without arriving at data sufficiently precise to satisfy our legitimate interest 
in the search for our own genealogies. 

Let us examine a bit these different approaches. First, Voodoo and our 
oral traditions. Certain writers have persuaded themselves that the establish¬ 
ment of Voodoo and its persistent and dear domination as a popular reli¬ 
gion among so many other aniinist beliefs or others from areas foreign to 
the Guinea and Gold Coasts represents undeniable proof of the preponder¬ 
ance in Saint-Domingue of slaves from Dahomey. However attractive, the 
hypothesis cannot withstand analysis. Clearly it is contrary to the slave de¬ 
scriptions or to work-gang inventories. On the one hand, these substantiate 
the numerical superiority of the Congos in marronage and, on the other, they 
do not at any time reveal any substantial influx of Dahomcans in the popu¬ 
lating of Saint-Domingue. In general, far from being limited to a Dahomey 
quite hostile to the slave trade, the influx is Arada. If Voodoo originating 
in Dahomey was able to establish and consolidate itself in the colony, it was 
not by any means due to the presence of any massive number of slaves from 
Dahomey. Was there ever indeed such a massive presence? Certainly one 
must search elsewhere for the reasons that favored implantation and domi¬ 
nance of Voodoo. First, “like all the pagan religions of the Guinean belt, 
the most structured in all the African continent,” 3 Voodoo could oiler a 
greater attraction to the mind of the slaves. Yet in fact, the Dahomcan input, 

National Origins 117 

however real and important to the formation of Voodoo, is by no means the 
exclusive clement and sole determinant* In a recent paper, Mme. Litas 
Desquiron 4 focused attention on the considerable input of the Congos of the 
Bantu group in the formation of Haitian Voodoo and on the syncretism, re¬ 
vealed and copiously analyzed by most of our ethnologists, pertaining for 
the most part to accretions to the Catholic religion. Apparently then, because 
of the disparate character of its origins, Voodoo cannot serve to prove either 
Bantu or Guinean predominance in the populating of Saint-Domingue. Cer¬ 
tainly for a long time both “Guinea"* and “Congo” equally symbolized Africa 
toward the end of the colonization period* Did not Macaya, the Maroon 
chieftain, recognize the king of the Congo as the “bom master of all the 
blacks/* and was it not a Congolese chant which became, even before the 
ceremony at Bois-Gai'man,* the rallying hymn of the rebels, of the Voodoo 
meetings and dances? 5 

Whatever the case, if in their numerous couplets the Voodoo chants 
evoke African gods, whether the rites are Rada or Petro , they are in every 
instance combined in a single appeal without the slightest concern about 
revealing either Bantu or Guinean predominance* At least this is what we 
have observed in the litanies of the “loas,”** as they have been reported by 
Haitian and other writers interested in our popular religion: 

Mrin soti lan Guinin, mrin soti Guclefe (Ife) * * . patez hounsis congos 
Ian Guinin . * . oh tedeguey . * * Lcgba Petro, legba Ibo, legba Dahoumin, 
legba Allada, legba Badagri* *. ,t 

The litany, ^Prayer of Djor/* still better expresses the complement of 
“nations” which have contributed to the formation of the Haitian com¬ 
munity, without the slightest clue to the predominance of any one group: 

Call them all everyone of them from Africa’s Guinea, from ail the na¬ 
tions: Rada (Aradas), Ibo, Capaloa, cn-mme (Amine, Mine), Mondonguc, 
Mandingo, Senigal (Senegal), Canga, Congo, Nago, Danhome (Dahomey), 
Wangol, Mahi, Foula, Mayombe, Fon, Bambara, Hausa, Congo-Franc , . ,* 

Thus it appears that the Voodoo chants reflect more the recognition of 
"loas” of all the “nations” populating Saint-Domingue, more an affirmation 
of the plurality of inputs to the formation of Voodoo itself than an ethnic 
distribution* 7 

* The wooded camp site where the revolt of the slaves was touched off in a dramatic 
Voodoo ceremony. 

** Voodoo Spirits, gods. 

t “I come from Guinea, I come from Ife* Oh Congo hounsis / Invoke the shades of 
Petro, of Ibo and Dahomey, of Allada and of Badagri.*' Hounsis, usually women, have 
a special role in Voodoo ceremony* They are responsible for invoking the spirits in 
song and dance* 


Will it be more fruitful to delve into the correspondence of the colonists, 
the testimony of historians contemporary to the epoch, the official work-gang 
rosters, or the shipping lists of slave-ship owners? Colonial documentation 
provides no precise responses to our questions about the numerical predomi¬ 
nance of either Guinean or Bantu at the end of the colonial period. It is cer¬ 
tain, however, that progressively closer scrutiny of slave inventories, increas¬ 
ing, for example, to the extent that new archival materials are uncovered, 
will provide an increasingly closer approach. For the period in question we 
will discover, over the long run, the most up-to-date composition of work 
gangs in the sugar mills, in the indigo factories, on coffee plantations in the 
north, in the west or in the southern belt. Was it a matter of Guineans being 
in the majority in the sugar mills or of Bantus in the majority in the coffee 
mills? At the end of the colonial period even before the slacking off and 
the suppression of the regular slave trade, what was the actual percentage of 
bossalcs and creoles working in the field gangs, as house-servants, or in the 
factories? This research has but barely begun. It will be long and difficult 
all the more so for the fact that such inventories are rarely found. From time 
to time, a new dossier is discovered here or there in some dusty cupboard. 
We would need a rather large number of inventories of this type to provide a 
basis for solid conclusions. We arc far from this realization. Debien, whose 
rather considerable efforts in pursuit of enlightenment on these matters can 
never be sufficiently extolled, has earned the credit for having analyzed 
almost a hundred work-gang rosters, and as a result of these studies has 
compiled a documentation of inestimable value. In a parallel attempt to fix 
the origins of the Antillean slaves, he has delved into even more rare bills 
of lading of slave-ship outfitters only to arrive at the conclusion that these 
documents in no way settle the debate. None of the papers examined to date 
indicate with any specificity the breakdown of the cargoes by ethnicity, al¬ 
though the ports of registry of the slave ships (Nantes, La Rochelle, Le 
Havre, Bordeaux, Lorient Marseille, Saint-Malo, Honflcur) arc known and 
sometimes the duration as well as the ship’s tonnage. There remain for the 
moment the descriptions and advertisements in the Saint-Dominguc press. 

There are two types of descriptions. The one relates to slaves for sale 
on the occasion of the departure of some colonial preparing to leave Saint- 
Domingue for temporary or final return to France, These announcements 
lump together domestic slaves, creole blacks, bossales, or creolized slaves of 
such a diversity of African origins that it is difficult to determine if there are 
in these occasional sales more Congos than creoles, or more Aradas than 
Nagos or Ibos. Furthermore, these announcements cover, after all, only a 
very small fraction of the servile mass, principally, in general, the domestic 
blacks. With more justifiable interest, one turns to the advertisements of run¬ 
away slaves in flight, in jail, or on sale after marronage. Immediately the 
very large number of these ads provides an extremely important base for 
investigation. They comprise no less than forty-eight thousand announce- 

National Origins 119 

merits spread over a period of some thirty years. With few exceptions, all of 
them indicate the "nation” of the fugitives. A first objection would be that 
descriptions referring to Maroons necessarily omit the "nations” not indulg¬ 
ing in marronage. But none exists. A more serious handicap is that the list¬ 
ings of Maroons do not precisely reveal the real proportion of each "nation” 
in Saint-Domingue. They do show in nonetheless suggestive example the 
proportion of Maroons from each "nation”—an observation in itself ex¬ 
tremely important. These descriptions indisputably reveal a distinct predom¬ 
inance of Congo slaves in marronage. The predominance held throughout 
the years 1764-1793 until the last notices appearing in the Saint-Domingue 

Was there actually a greater number of Congos, or was it simply that 
among the fugitive slaves of the various nations who were caught the Congos 
were most inclined to marronage—even though as a matter of fact they had 
the reputation among colonists of being the most sprightly and the most 
tractable? In the following table, for example, it will be seen that while in 
1764 and 1765 or in 1766, the Congos were most frequently represented 
among the fugitive slaves, for these very years slave importations consisted 
largely of groups from the Guinea Coast and the Gold Coast. It seems 
scarcely feasible to dispute the evidence that the Congos were at the same 
time both recalcitrant and given to running away and that they were also 
the most numerous of the slaves brought to Saint-Domingue at the close of 
the colonial epoch. The bulletins announcing slave-ship arrivals support this 
latter conclusion. We can show this not without in all honesty underscoring 
the gaps in these last notices. The latter arc of two types: those reporting 
ship arrivals, and those having to do with public sales of cargoes. 

Descriptions of Maroons do not give precise geographic detail and do 
not always indicate the exact coastal region where the slave was "traded.” 
They group together in a very loose way those who are Senegalese, Aradas, 
Mandmgocs, Congos, Mozambiques, According to Moreau Saint-Mery, 
"When the slaves are asked for their birthplace they give the region which 
the traders interpret as kingdom.” 3 

In contrast, the announcements of slave-ship arrivals almost always indi¬ 
cated the origin of the cargo, for example: arriving from the Guinea Coast, 
from Senegal, and so forth. Sometimes they indicated the African port from 
which the vessel set sail: Badagris, Gabinde, Goree, Porto-Novo; from 
Aunis, from Malimbe, and so forth. 

Unfortunately the Saint-Domingue press, as though to be consistent with 
the already observed colonial penchant for inexactitude, at times provided 
information contributing to a certain amount of confusion. Toward the end 
of the colonial period, which saw the beginnings of the Saint-Domingue press, 
it became the habit, especially around 1783 to 1785, to lump under the 
general heading "Gold Coast” cargoes of Guinean Aradas with Congos of 
the Bantu group, or with Senegalese of the Sudanese group. The designation 


Gold Coast was thus quite elastic. It embraced not only “nations*’ belonging 
to the true Guinean group, that is to say of the actual Gold Coast, but also 
at times included Congos fortuitously placed under this label Thus we see 
the designation “Gold Coast* 1 extended to Guineans, Sudanese and Bantus, 
to indicate respectively Congo, Angola, Senegal, Dahomey and even Mo¬ 
zambique. At the same time, slave centers such as Malimbc, Porto-Novo, 
Ardre or Adra, Juda, Anamabou, Goree, Badagris—none of which belongs 
either to the geographic or ethnic zone of the Gold Coast—were likewise 
designated Gold Coast, Sometimes, and this is less grievous au error, slaves 
shipped from Angola and from Mozambique and, it must be added, related 
to each other, were listed as Congos, 11 

Here, taken from current and correct notices, are sonic examples of the 
liberties taken with geography. They give a more accurate idea of the an¬ 
nouncements of slave-ship arrivals in Saint-Dominguc during the years for 
which we have most frequently noted these contradictions. They arc far 
from being grievous errors, and in any case, since they are easy to correct, 
we have attempted to do so here in order to avoid ambiguous conclusions: 

The Actif, from Malimbc, Angola Coast, with 342 head of slaves 
The Iris, arriving with 850 Negroes from Porio-Nove, Gold Coast 
The Saint+Esprit from Badagris with a fine cargo of Arada Negroes 
The Trots Freres, arriving from Gabinde with 400 Africans 
The Amour, from Guinea with 365 slaves 
A cargo, arriving from A unis. Gold Coast 

The Brttne, arriving from Juda, Gold Coast, with 360 Negroes from Ardre 
A slave ship from Juda, true Gold Coast 
The Castries t from Senegal, Gold Coast 

The Jeremie and the Prince Notr, arriving from Juda and from Anamabou, 
real Gold Coast 

The Cygogne from Port-Novo, Gold Coast 

The Vilte de Nantes, arriving from the Gold Coast with 300 A rad as 
The Alexander from Sierra Leone 
The Clary , arriving from Aquila, Mozambique Coast 10 
The A unis, arriving from the Angola Coast with a superb shipload in excel¬ 
lent condition after a crossing of thirty-eight days from Malimbc 
The Blouin, from Gabon with 126 Africans 
The Ceres , from Gat bard (undoubtedly Calabar) 

The Cinq Cousines, arriving from Gabinde, Angola Coast with 507 negroes 
The Breton, arriving from the Gold Coast with three hundred Arada negroes 
The Actif , from Quiola 

The Coeurs Unis r arriving from Angola with a cargo of 250 head of Congos 
The Bonne A mi tie, sailing from Sierra-Leone 

The Mttrechal de Mottchi, sailing from Malimbc, Angola Coast with 810 

The Fiore t from Nantes, arriving with 310 Congos picked up at Mozambique 
The Gustave-Adolphe, arriving from Gor£e, Senegal 

National Origins 12! 

The Saint-Esprit, sailing from Onis with 508 Aradas, Gold Coast 

The Rot Solomon , arriving from Goree, Gold Coast 

The Pactole, from Badagris, Gold Coast with a cargo comprising the best 
nations, such as Arada, Haoussa, Nago, Fonds, Dahomey, and so forth 

The Homme Instruit, sailing from the Angola Coast with a cargo of Congos 

The Solitaire, arriving from the Angola Coast with 300 blacks, all of whom 
have had smallpox 

The Elizabeth and the Victory, arriving form Cabinde with a fine shipment 
of Congos acquired at Malimbe 

The Notre-Damc du Dilivrement, sailing from Aunts, Gold Coast, with 327 
Arada, Aoussa, Da hornet, Ayo blacks 

The Dauphin Royal, arriving from Malimbe with a fine shipment of Francs 

The Uni, from the Angola Coast with 300 Africans picked up in two months 
of trading, ship in the Cap roadstead after a crossing of thirty-six days . , * 

The Saint-Domingue press and the slave traders were quite aware of 
these inaccuracies, and it is for this reason that frequently they adopted the 
precaution of specifying “arriving from the true Gold Coast.” Because of 
these inaccuracies it would profit little to dig for really accurate data in the 
body of ship-arrival notices. We will have to settle for data that are informa¬ 
tive only in the general sense. 

With this in mind we must hope for the earliest possible correction of the 
information, distorted as it has been by the liberties so lightly taken at Saint- 
Domingue with respect to geography and the facts about the distribution of 
the African ethnics. Fortunately we can, in summary fashion, localize this 
ethnic distribution. 

The Senegalese came from Saint-Louis and later, from Goree, came cer¬ 
tain neighboring ethnics—the Bambaras, Quiambas, Sudanese, and the Peuls 
from Foutah, The Mandingos came out of Gambia. The Aradas were from 
the true Gold Coast or Slave Coast, stretching from Dahomey to Eastern 
Nigeria. In slave centers at Judah, Porto-Novo, Omdah, Abomey, and Allada 
they thus assembled by language group. The Minas and the Thiambas came 
from Ghana, the Memos from Gabon, the Cotocolis from Togo, and the 
Nagos from southwest Nigeria. 

The Miserables and the Bouriquis lived on the Malaguette Coast, now 
Liberia, and the Mondongos in the Benguele Kingdom, Angola, where Ca¬ 
binda and Loango were slave trading ports. These latter peoples were im¬ 
properly classified with the neighboring Congos of Congo Kingdom, situated 
between Cape Lopes and Cape Negre, that is, between Gabon and Angola. 11 
Based on these considerations, it is now possible to correct errors and irregu¬ 
larities, in any case, to arrive at group classifications consistent with a strict 
respect for geographic boundaries. It is to this end that we have exerted our¬ 
selves in attempting a statistical recapitulation of the slave trade from notices 


of slave-ship arrivals in the various ports of Saint-Domingue and from an¬ 
nouncements of public sales of cargoes carried by these same slavers. 

In spite of reservations we have had to entertain and the corrections 
that have at times been recommended, we very much doubt that there is to 
be found a better source of information about the populating of Saint- 
Domingue toward the end of the colonial period. Does it not accurately 
bespeak the essential facts about the commerce in slaves? If not the sole 
basis for investigation, it is in the present state of research the surest, most 
suggestive and least fragile approach to rediscovering the true and proximate 
origins of the Haitian community. 

Therein lies our interest in the following table, Li lays the groundwork 
for a research team effort that will possibly fill in some of the descriptions 
and, with help derived from additional sources—inventories of work gangs 
still come to mind—provide a deeper analysis. The resulting conclusions, 
we believe, will not in essence be modified. 


Slave Trade to Saint Domingue 
from 1764 to 1793 








Gazette de 131 


A vis divers 
petites Affiches 


6681 13 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 10 

Guinea Coast 9 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 10 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 1 

Other Origins: 

Bought in 

Martinique 1 




Guinean Group: (Guinea Coast and 
Gold Coast) 19 and 10 

Angola Coast: (Congos, True 
(francs) Congos) of the 

Bantu Group 

Bantu Group: In 405 descriptions— 
these advertisements of runaways had 
just begun in 1764—already the 

Congos are the most numerous. 13 








A vis divers 15 On ly 2180, Guinean Group: 

while just for Gold Coast 6 

Affiches Americaines the ports of Cap Guinea Coast 6 

and Port-au* Bantu Group: 

Prince alone the Angola Coast 3 
exact total is Sudanese Group: 0 

11,900 (AA 
March 12* 







Congos (Baiun—with about 600 de¬ 
scriptions of runaway slaves) 








A ffi ches A m ericoin es 


9602 Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 11 

Guinea Coast 7 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 15 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 2 



Guinean: IS 

Congos {Bantu) based on some 800 
descriptions of Maroons 








A ffi dies Americaines 


15293 Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 21 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 27 
Sudanese Group: 0 



Bantu Group 

Congos (Bantu) with 1095 descrip¬ 
tions of Maroons 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 125 








Affiches Amiricaines 39 

A vis du Cap 


Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 11 

Guinea Coast 6 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 20 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 2 




Congos (Bantu) with 1100 Maroon 








Affiches Arnericaines 37 

A vis du Cap 

Supplement aux 

Affiches Arnericaines 


Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 13 

Guinea Coast 2 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 21 
Sudanese Group: 

Gorec, Senegal 1 



Bantu Congos (Bantu) with approximately 

1250 Maroon descriptions 







A ffi cites A m ericam es 
Supplement a ax 

Affiches Atnericmnes 


8768 Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 1 

Guinea Coast 18 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 15 

Sudanese G ro up: 

Senegal 2 





Congos {Bantu) with about 1300 
Maroon descriptions 








A ffich es A mericain vs 


6990 G uin ean G roup: 

Gold Coast 9 

Guinea Coast 1 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 17 
Sudanese Group: 

Gambia and Senegal 3 




Congos {Bantu) with about 950 
Maroon descriptions 


Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 127 


newspapers ships 






Affiches Americaines 39 



Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 11 

Guinea Coast 5 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 21 
Sudanese Group: 

Gambia and Senegal 3 




Congos (Bantu), approximately 

1000 Maroon descriptions 








A ffidies A tnericat n es 3 5 


Avis divers 


Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 14 

G uinea Coast 0 

Bantu Group ; 

Angola Coast 19 
Sudanese Group: 1 

Other Origins: 
Mozambique l 1 * 



Congas (Bantu) Congos (Bantu), with approximately 

1600 Maroon descriptions 











A ffichcs A mcricaines 




Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 7 

Guinea Coast 2 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 24 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 2 





Congos ( Bantu ) with approximate!y 
1000 Maroon descriptions 










Afftches Americaincs 



Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast J9 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 20 
Sudanese Group: 

Gorec, Senegal 4 




Bantu'* Congos (Bantu) with about 1300 

Maroon descriptions 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 129 










Affiches Americaines 



Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 26 

Guinea Coast 1 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 30 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 1 





Congos (Bantu) with approximately 
2100 Maroon descriptions 










Affiches Americaines 
SA.A . 



Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 20 

Guinea Coast 1 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 22 
Sudanese Group: 

Goree, Senegal 5 

Other Origins;™ 
Mozambique 2 





Congos (Bantu) t approximately 2000 
Maroon descriptions 











A filches Amiricaines 
SAA . 

in double supplement 



Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 28 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 2 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 17 
Mozambique 2 





Guinean (Gold Coast) Bantu (Congos) with approximately 

1700 Maroon descriptions 



Affichcs Amirkmnes and double Supplement S.A.A. 


Due to the current insecurity on the high seas because of the Anglo-American 
war descriptions of slave ships are practically non-existent with the exception of 
the following three announcements which are insufficient for demonstrating for 
1779 the usual percentages of slave origins: March 2, 1779 —La Ncgresse, Le 
Havre, arrived at Cap, February 25 from the Gold Coast. The sale of 89 blacks 
is announced. 

A A. June 15, 1779—Two English vessels, the Providence and the Herifon , 
loaded with slaves taken from prizes captured on rivers in Gambia and Seraiione 
(Sierra Leone) 17 in Africa by the Division commanded by M. dc Pontdevis-Gren. 

A.A, August 17, 1779 —The Nymphe, en route from the Africa Coast. 


First, Bantu (Congos), followed by an unusually large percent of creole or An¬ 
tillean blacks, then Nagos and Mondongos, for a total of some thirteen hundred 
descriptions of runaway slaves. 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 131 


newspapers consulted 

Affiches Amerlcalncs and S.A.A. Saint-Domingue continued to feel the effects of 
the war and of a blockade effectively choking off the arrival of slave ships. The 
Gazette continued to publish its “Ship Arrivals’* feature. A few convoys under 
escort were described as “en route from France,” “having touched at Martinique,” 
"arriving from the Windward Islands,” but not even a single ship departing from 
the coasts of Africa. 


Bantus , still the Congos, And among the Maroons always more bossalcs than 
creoles. For the year, the number of Maroons announced is about twelve hundred 
and fifty. 



Affiches Amiricaines and SAA. (once again in reduced format) 


Hostilities continue and maritime transport experiences the same difficulties, al¬ 
though a number of merchant vessels under escort out of France arrive at Cap 
and at Port-au-Prince. Virtual caravans of as many as sixty-nine ships all in the 
Cap roadstead at the same time. 

As for the slave trade it is reduced to the rare ship able to run the block¬ 
ade, a few neutral ships, perhaps Danish or Spanish, bringing meager con¬ 
tingents of Africans after stopovers in Havana. Among the runaways, newly 
arrived Africans arc seen: Mandingos, Minas, Mozambiques, Nagos, Thiam- 
has—an indication that the trade in blacks is still being carried on, though 
with difficulty and in numbers inadequate to meeting the demands of the 
colonists. Traffic is more by contraband than by the regular slave trading, 
now become so hazardous as to be almost impossible. We find—after the 
Congos who still dominate in terms of numbers—crcolized bossalcs, no 
longer considered new blacks, largo contingents of creoles from Saint- 
Domingue or from the neighboring Antilles (Dutch and Spanish blacks, 
creoles fiom Curasao, from Martinique), blacks from Mississippi mixed 
in with Nagos, Mandingos, I bos and other bossalcs habitually runaways. In 
the last resort, the supply of slaves is assured by means of occasional prizes 
taken on the high seas. 

It may be interesting to reproduce below the notices in the A. A. which, 
better than any commentary provide some idea of the difficulties and the 
paucity of slave arrivals in the year 1781: 


S,AA. February 27, 1781—"On February 28, 1781, at Cap upon the request of 
Bernard Lavaud, businessman representing the buyer captains, an auction sale of 
202 head of negroes newly arrived from the Gold Coast, belonging to the ship 
Le Diamant, out of London, a prize taken from the enemies of the country by 
the United States frigate Saratoga teamed with two frigates, a private brigantine 
out of Philadelphia and the Royal brigantine Le Chat. In addition, auction sale 
of Le Diamant formerly the slave ship Due de Laval from Rochelle. 13 

A.A. May 29, 1781—the corsair, Lion , from Cap, has taken and brought to Cayes 
a fenau (?) with a cargo of blacks shipped from Saint Lucia for Jamaica under 
Portuguese flag, 

S.A.A. July 24, 1781—the vessel Le S4nac arrived at Cap from Senegal with a 
cargo of fifty-six blacks, 

217 blacks acquired on the Mozambique Coast brought here by the ship Le Gauge 
out of the Orient* 

A.A. October 16, 1781—Stanislas Foache, Hellot and Co. "offers for sale the 
slave ship L T Acra sailing out of the Gold Coast”. 

A.A t November 20, 1781—The Danish ship Christiansbourg “with an excep¬ 
tional cargo of two-hundred Africans from the Gold Coast,” also at the disposi¬ 
tion of Foache, Hellot. 


Guinean (Gold Coast) keeping in mind all reservations required by the irregu¬ 
larity of the announcements. 


Bantu (Congos) based on approximately 1900 descriptions of Maroons. 



Affiches Americaines and S.A.A* 

Following is the total listing of announcements relative to the slave trade for the 
year 1782. 

The Fleurie from Nantes arriving from Senegal with one hundred and thirty 
slaves. The Chambeltan-Schask, Danish ship with a cargo of four hundred 
Africans from the Gold Coast addressed to Messrs* Foache, Hellot and Co., 
the Patience out of St. Thomas, with a great cargo of slaves from the Gold 
Coast. The Fancy, St. Thomas, with a fine shipment of two hundred blacks 
from the Gold Coast for Lory, Plombard and Co* The vessel de Enfaam ar¬ 
riving from Angola with four hundred Africans for Richardson and Bellot* 

For sale, a batch of forty to fifty Ibos, at M.M.F, and J, Viard’s. The Ad¬ 
venture from St* Thomas arri% r ed with a fine cargo of Gold Coast blacks. The 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 £0 1793 133 

Danish slaver Gregers-Juel arriving from the Gold Coast with cargo for Foache. 
The Lion arrived with a very fine shipment of negroes from the Gold Coast. 

Foache, Morange and Co., give notice they have just received a very fine ship¬ 
ment of two hundred and seventy-one blacks from the Gold Coast* Lory and 
PJombard announce they are offering for sale 31 head of slaves, of the Arada 
nation and will have next week fifty-nine additional new blacks, also Aradas. 

Foache, Morange announce the arrival for them of a fine cargo of two hundred 
and seven negroes from the Gold Coast, 

Abeille and Guys offer for sale twelve fine negroes from the Gold Coast and 
from Angola, and Foache has fifty head of slaves from the Gold Coast From 
Gabinde, the arrival of La Duchesse de Polignac of St Malo with eight hundred 
blacks from the Angola Coast. Martineau and Blanchaud offer for sale fifty 
fine negroes. Roux and Riviere have received from the brigantine Elsinore of 
St, Thomas one hundred choice negroes from the Gold Coast. 

largest group among runaways 

Bantu (Congos) based on approximately one thousand descriptions of Maroons. 



178 3 









A ffiches A merieaines 
S.A.A . and 




Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 13 

Guinea Coast l 10 
Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 9 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 3 

Other Origins: 

Porto-Cabello, Cape of 
Good Hope 3 






Bantu (Congos) based on 1386 de¬ 
scriptions of Maroons 











A ffi dies A me ricaines 


I4767 20 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 27 

Guinea Coast 0 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 37 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 7 



Bantu {Angola Coast) 

Bantu (Congos) based on 1489 de¬ 
scriptions of Maroons 










Affidies Americaines 


(format of gazette 
enlarged beginning 
that year) 


12148 21 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 20 

Guinea Coast 1 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 23 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 5 

Other Origins: 
Mozambique 1 




Bantu (Angola Coast) Bantu (Congos) based on approxi¬ 

mately 2400 descriptions of Maroons 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 135 










Afflches AmSricaines 
SA.A , 

Feuille da Cap 

Feuille du 

with supplement 


17432 22 

Guinean Group; 

Gold Coast 22 

Guinea Coast 0 

Bantu Group; 

Angola Coast 27 
Sudanese Groupi 

Senegal 11 

Other Origins: 

Mozambique 2 



Bantu (Angola Coast) 

Bantu (Congos) based on approxi¬ 
mately 2600 descriptions of Maroons 










Afflches Amiricaines 

Feuille du Cap and 
twice a week 


22726 33 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 44 

Guinea Coast 0 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 20 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 14 

Other Origins; 9 

Mozambique, Coast of 
Africa, Sierra-Leone, 
Gabon* Quid a 



Guinean {Gold Coast) Bantu (Conges), based on approxi¬ 

mately 2500 descriptions of Maroons 











Feuille du 


Affiches Amerieaines 
published on Thurs¬ 
days and Saturdays 


12Q48 24 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 16 

Guinea Coast 0 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 19 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 1 




Bantu (Conges), based on approxi¬ 
mately 2800 descriptions of Maroons 










A ffi ches A mericain es 
et Supplement, 
Supplement des A.A. 
Feuille du 

Cap-Frattgais et 5, 
Nouvelles diverses 


33937 23 

Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 48 

Guinea Coast 2 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 44 
Mozambique 10 

Sudanese Group : 
Senegal 6 
Gambia 1 
Other Origins: 

No indication 4 
Less Common Origins: 
Isles de Los (at the 
entrance of Conakry 
Port, Guinea) 1 
Cape of Good Hope 
(Bantu) 1 
Ile-de-France (east of 
Madagascar, now He 
Maurice) 2 
Isle du Prince (in 
Guinea Gulf) l 
A total of 5, 
including 3 Bantu 

Slave Trade to Saint Demingue from 1764 to 1793 137 











Affiches Amiricaines 170 

FeuiUe du 


Supplement aux 

Affiches Amiricaines 

Journal General de 

(October to December) 

46471-° Guinean Group: 

Gold Coast 6$ 
Sudanese Group: 

Senegal 3 

Bantu Group: 

Angola Coast 68 
Mozambique 26 

Other Origins: 5 
no indication 3 
Ile-de-France 2 



Bantu (Congos and Mozambiques) 

Bantu (Congos, followed closely by 
Mozambiques) based on approxi¬ 
mately 3500 descriptions of Maroons 










Gazette de 



Guinean Group: 

Saint-Do mingue 

Gold Coast 22 

politique, civile. 

Guinea, He dc Los 1 

economique et 

Sudanese Group: 


Senegal 2 

Affiches Americaines 

Bantu Group: 

(Wednesdays and 

Angola Coast 24 

Saturdays, plus one 

Mozambique 3 


Other Origins: 

Journal General de 

Coast of Africa 2 


Ile-de-France 1 

(January to March) 

No indication 3 

Courrier de 

Sa in t-Dom ingue \ 

Courrier National de 

Sa in t-Domingue 

Journal du 


Assemblee Co Ion tale 

de la Partie 






Bantu Bantu (Congos followed by numerous 

Mozambiques) based on approxi¬ 
mately 4600 descriptions of Maroons 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 139 

1792 and 1793 



Journal politique de 

The regular 


slave trade 

(edited by a member 

nears an end 

of the colonial 

amid serious 



A ffi ches A m erica in es 

that shake 

Journal des Revolutions 


de la Partie 


Frangaise de 

and the 



Momteur de la Partie 

fervid activity 

Frangaise Qbservcur 

of the 

de Saint-Domingue 


daily and Supplement 
VObserveur colonial 
La Gazette des Cayes 27 

Announcements of slave-ship arrivals are more and more rare, as if the 
new climate of opinion forbade according prominent notice to this increas¬ 
ingly contested traffic. Nevertheless, some well-known slave ships arrive at 
and leave from Cap or Port-au-Prince. Very often, in giving the number of 
days for the crossing the press reveals that the ships are slavers, but without 
so specifying and without declaring either the origin of the vessels or the 
importance of their cargoes. Furthermore, there arc many creoles from 
Martinique and Charleston or from Marie Gal ante (this suggests a supply in 
countries nearby) in marronage as there are new blacks often not yet 
branded, not able to speak French—Congos, Mozambiqucs, Nagos, Senegal¬ 
ese, Mandingos, Ibos. This line of information confirms that in 1792 and 
even up to the end of March 1793 the slave trade was continuing. 

It would have been particularly interesting to get a close look at the 
status of the slave trade in its last manifestations. Unfortunately, however, 
the press of these last years is limited to these brief announcements: 

The Serapis arriving from Mozambique, A shipment of 282 blacks 
from the Gold Coast. Three others from the Gold Coast Nine shipments 
from the Angola Coast. The number of slaves described—the press being 
generally mute on the composition of shipments—does not exceed two thou¬ 
sand for the year 1792. In 1793 the Momteur General a daily newspaper 
with a supplement announces only: 

January 14, 1793-—three newly arrived Conges escaped from aboard the 
General Washington. 


February 20, 1793-Sale of bossales from Senegal acquired from a ship 
from Havana* 

March 22, 1793 —The Nouvelle Societe from Nantes arrived from the 
Zaire River, Angola Coast, with an excellent cargo of 331 blacks for delivery 
to Demonhaison Lelong and Co., who will open their sale on the twenty-fifth, 
next current. 

March 25, 1793—The Bonne Henriette of Bordeaux with a superb cargo 
of 378 blacks from the Angola Coast, 

March 27, 1793—the Postilion of St* Malo sailing from Senegal destined 
for Foache, Morange, Hardivillier* 

This is the last announcement in the press which, wc flatter ourselves, 
we have carefully sifted, always conscious of the extent of our temerity and 
our possible omissions in such an undertaking which, instead of being the 
task of a single researcher, ought rather to have been a task for a team of 
researchers* The day will arrive perhaps when our country will have come 
to appreciate the value of basic research, indispensable for any proper ap¬ 
proach to the origins and elements of our glorious history* 

So far as announcements are concerned, the regular slave trade" 5 ends 
with this twenty-seventh of March 1793. Curiously enough, the trade comes 
to an end with the uprooting of the very people, the Senegalese, 2 * with 
which operations had begun a century and a half earlier* And it is the house 
of Stanislaus Foache—the most important in the slave trade at Saint- 
Dominguc—which had the dubious privilege of assuming the responsibility 
for this last crime barely noted by the colonial gazettes* 

Dominant group in importations: Bantu (Congos and Mozambiques) 
followed by blacks from the Gold Coast and from Senegal* 

Dominant group among nmaH>ays: The Saint-Domingue press has grown 
considerably and comprises no Tess than six gazettes in 1792, 1793* But, as 
with arrivals of slave ships, it very carefully abstains from denouncing mar- 
ronage. Instead, with great discretion it refers to “strayed” or lost blacks. 
Even the colonial authority hardly cares to fulfill its legal obligation to 
publish the list of runaway slaves in jail or up for sale as unclaimed. We will 
comment later on this silence, the result of tacit agreement between the 
colonials and the colonial authorities, all the while matron age becomes the 
resort of increasingly menacing groups and continues in this aggressive form 
until the general Proclamation of Liberty in August of 1793* 

The Moniteur General published only twenty announcements of slave 
flight for the year 1792, and thirty in 1793* The same daily publishes many 
more announcements of “citizens” advising that they have taken steps “to 
free certain slaves in recompense for their good services*” The Observateur 
Colonial and the Gazette des Cayes between them describe exactly fifty-eight 
Maroons, of whom the greatest number arc simply “strays,” thus inducing 
the proprietor owners to request that “those who have given them hospital¬ 
ity” return them. These meagre details about the Maroons make unfeasible 

Slave Trade to Saint Domingue from 1764 to 1793 141 

any conclusion about “nations” numerically dominant among runaways in 
1792, 1793. With this necessary reservation we note that for these years the 
Congos appear still to be the most numerous in marronage and that the per¬ 
cent of creole blacks in flight is still even then less than the percent of the 
bossales, blacks newly arrived from Africa, or creole blacks from neighboring 

The conclusions drawn from this tabulation of the slave trade to Saint- 
Dominguc lead to three major claims: 1) The Sudanese group (Senegal, 
Gambia), while decreasing steadily in number, is still represented by im¬ 
portations, especially from Gorec; 2) The Guinean group (Guinea Coast 
and Gold Coast) remains a sizeable reservoir for stocking Saint-Domingue. 
The Gold Coast greatly outstrips the Guinea Coast and even dominates the 
importations of Angolans, Congos, Francs-Congos, and of Mozambiques in 
the Bantu group during the several years analyzed. Unquestionably, the 
Bantu group (Congos, Angolas, Mozambiques) heads the list of importa¬ 
tions and lists strongly suggestive of marronage as well as lists of arrivals and 
sales of slave shipments. The most recent ancestors of the Flaitian com¬ 
munity at the time of this inquiry would be for the most part slaves of the 
Bantu group brought in to reinforce, and subsequently to dominate the im¬ 
portations of blacks from the Guinean group and the declining contributions 
of the Sudanese group. Such are our original roots. 

Differentially yet indelibly stamped we wear the seal of these three groups 
from Mother Africa and, with both moral and physical characteristics domi¬ 
nating this strangest of brews, we bear the weight of a heritage fashioned by 
Sudanese, Guineans, and Bantus. Through a fidelity to the deep anguish of 
the uprooted or to the burning exaltation of hope and optimism of their 
races they came in long lines to rendezvous with a troubled destiny and in 
slow penetration to inseminate the quivering new land as though it were 
some carnal, virginal enclosure. 

Seduced by borrowed cultures and such a diversity of inputs, link by 
link in long relays through days of sweat and blood they fashioned an en¬ 
tirely new race, woven on a Bantu spinning wheel from French threads, 
drawn, broken, sewn and resewn, under the sun of a new human adventure. 
And never did the umbilical skein, stretched so far across the seas since the 
beginning of the stave trade, become unraveled, or severed. 

To these contributions from Africa there must of course be added that 
of the creole slaves, those bom in the colony, mostly dark-skinned resultants 
of the most current slave interrelationships who were in the smallest percent 
because of chance crossing with whites, grilles, mulattoes, the remaining 
Indians, the metis or sang miles [mixed bloods] with their dizzying gamut 
of shades and colorations ranging from griffe to marabout, from mulatto to 

It was the fancy of Moreau de Saint-Mery to group the myriad fractions 


of these mixtures into '‘thirteen distinct classifications on the basis of skin 
color” with twelve ways to produce a mulatto, a melange producing a most 
robust constitution, one most suitable to the Saint-Domingue climate, six 
combinations of mitis (in Saint-Domingue the term was metif s metive)* 0 
five combinations of mamelukcs, five for griffes, three for sacatras, four for 
quadroons, five for marabouts. These were in addition to several small Indian 
groups, aborigines or Antillean Caribs, East Indians and even West Indians 
brought in from Louisiana and Canada by English slavers who diffused them 
among the population after having witnessed the extraordinary prodigality 
in house servants among some of the rich colonials, 31 

In an anthropological note Stenio Vincent, disdaining these scholarly 
breakdowns, this color graph, brings to mind that it was the white master 
who in secret passing fancy, in the debasement of tropical ruts far from the 
big house impregnated the black woman or the copper-skinned Indian, Or 
else it was the black man who joined the shivering of his scarred flesh with 
the voluptuous quivering of his companion in misery thus accomplishing in 
the uncertain repose of warm perfumed nights the mysterious rite of love 
universal, , . 

The descriptions complete the number of these dark-skinned and mulatto 
creoles with the scarcely negligible contributions during certain periods—for 
example during the long American war which hampered the French slave 
trade—of slaves crcolized or born in the neighboring Antilles, Curasao, 
Jamaica and Aruba, 33 Far from being insignificant, their proportion reveals 
the contraband which had been carried on and which was still in vogue in 
Saint-Domingue, Was it not expedient for the administration to close its 
eyes to the illicit entry of Africans indispensable to cultivation, especially in 
the South where the scarcity of labor continued to distress the colonists and 
to delay the development of the economy? Many of these Antillean creole or 
creolized slaves were seen in Port-au-Prince or in Cap, indeed even in the 
small parishes of the West and the North. Rarely were these contraband blacks 
ever seized, Atypically, seven slaves belonging to Ledan of Jeremie were 
seized. Voluntarily or encouraged by bribes the colonial authorities feign 
ignorance of the existence of this traffic. 

Finally, to complete the ethnic picture, there remained a small number 
o£ aboriginals, Indians, with a penchant for marronage, having the advantage 
of color which permitted them to declare themselves free men. Thus, they 
were able without difficulty to move about the fringes of the major cities* 
These Indians w r ere often mixed with blacks, including mulattoes. Both mu¬ 
latto Indians and Indian griffes were noted in advertisements. Also noted in 
Saint-Domingue were “Antillean Caribs” or “savages from Mississippi.” The 
original race now existed only in its last surviving specimens. 34 The same 
was true for those who came from the neighboring isles where due to mis¬ 
cegenation, the inability to withstand hard labor, and native degeneration 
this people was about to disappear. 

Slave Trade to Sainl Domingue from 1764 to 1793 143 

In the slave world, the Africans whether newly arrived or creolized, were 
by far the most numerous and the most active in the fray or the “clandestine 
advance of the blood (cheminement du sang). For this reason their contri¬ 
bution was more real, more continuous. The contribution of the creole blacks 
was doubtless more limited because of their smaller numbers towards the 
end of colonization; it was, nevertheless, a particularly active, even critical 
one, 35 

In fact, it is probable that we are in great number indebted to the creole 
Africans, skilled workers, and house-servants, for the impressions of the 
strengths and defects resulting from assimilation with colonial life, from the 
more direct contact with white masters, from a more accessible approach 
to European habits and manners for the copying of w'hich, even to the point 
of aping, they were criticized. Consequently, we also owe to them the long- 
established and continued practice of adopting and spreading in the black 
world the influences and traces visible in so many ways—other than the 
purely physical results of crossbreeding—of the temperament of those regions 
of France which had the most contact with Saint-Domingue: people from 
Brittany, Normandy, Angevin, Foitevin, Limousin, Angoulfime, Gas¬ 
cony, • * 

It has been said that we have adopted all the weaknesses of the French 
and none of their good qualities. A completely French facetiousness. On the 
contrary, it was slavery that gave its victims, long engaged in the process of 
defense, the art of dissembling and deception. 

Over the long years these were useful weapons against the cruel derision 
of the pitiless colonists, since they would be the ultimate recourse, the 
supreme skill in the face of exactions which to the detriment of the proletariat 
and the peasantry would, alas, be continued after Independence by new dark 
and light-skinned settlers. The Haitian elite themselves may have conserved 
as heritage certain resultants of the colonial past. Foremost among these 
would be a “withering (dessechant) particularism” born in the panic of 
headlong flight, the mind set of the authoritarian and cruel slave driver, appre- 
hensivcncss, and a careful reserve manifested in social and political relations* 
Yes, and enviousness that can rise to the level of a disconcerting, inexplicable 
hatred of the achiever, whether the achievement be simply an honest success 
in business or the modest success of a writer. 



IN SAINT-DOMINGUE slaves were branded in much the same way as ani¬ 
mals. By way of illustration, here are brands used on horses, asses and mules 
foliow r ed by slave brands: 

A roan-colored mare branded F.L., the letters interlaced and her young 
mule of eighteen months not branded. A brown she-ass, blind, with illegible 
brand; chestnut English horse branded L.B. and below that brand St. M, 
(Saint-Marc) on the left thigh; a young castrated mule apparently not 
branded, with a chest wound, found at Acul and brought to the jail; a bay 
ass with split ears at the ends and, imposed on an old brand, the letters 
B.R.B, repeated upside down on both thighs. 

Examples of slave brands: A Congo male branded I.H.S. with a cross 
over H . belongs to the Jesuits; Desiree, a Nago, branded Etienne Chavitcau; 
two new blacks from the Gold Coast, not branded; Michau, a Congo, brand 
illegible; Francois, a creole, branded Jumei on his right chest and on the 
left, Fourcade, belongs to M. Jumei of Saint-Marc; Jacques, a creole with 
the M, Flcury brand on his right chest and on the left, Prouvo; Jolicoeur, a 
Thiamba, with the brand St And on his right arm, the last two letters en¬ 
twined, and on both sides of the chest LeBlanc Baradaires upside down and 
hard to make out; Francois Martin, Spanish mulatto stamped Hudicourt on 
his right breast, property of Mr. Hudicourt of Port-au-Prince; Sophie, an 
Arada apparently not branded, previously belonging to one Babiche, a free 
black woman; Jcan-Bapiiste, a Mondongo, the Martin brand on his right 
chest and on the left, Fauque, and below, Leog&ne. 

Baptiste, an Arada branded Bailly St. Marc, 

Gerard, a Bambara, with the Wuls brand on his stomach. 

Michaud, Congo, has a stomach brand. 

Alexis, Congo, branded L.C.L. 

Lis tin, creole, branded L.C, 

Vincent, creole. Maniac brand on the right chest, S.N.E. upside down on the 

Jean Baptiste, Congo, Dulac brand on the right chest and Dalcour on the left. 

Jacques, Jamaica creole, branded L. Pasquier. 

Pierre, a Cotocoli, branded L.A. and some illegible letters on the right breast, 
and below that An Cap, Fiess on the left breast and St. M. below it. 



Francois, Congo, M.L* Tar brand on his right chest, the letters all intertwined, 
property of one Pierre, free black residing in la Coupe* 

Pierre, creole, with the brand Aujar Au Cap in horseshoe design on both 

A new slave woman, no owner's brand, but has the shin’s brand LJ. on her 
right buttock* 

Jasmin, Congo, three brands on his chest. 

Baptiste, a grille from Martinique, bears the brand of the King of Spain on 
his right shoulder* 

Pierre, an escapee from jail, branded Pago on both sides of the chest, and 
most recently, Gavary. 

A new Negro, Nago, has the ship's brand CCC on his right chest and on his 
left chest C* Harran, 

Mercure, Congo with the Esteves brand and scarred at the hands of the execu¬ 
tioner, belongs to Mister Esteves, Seneschal at Cap. 

A slave branded on the chest D.P. followed by an ivy leaf* 

A Congo, Paul, no brand other than several fleurs-de-lys* 

A Maroon carrying no brand except for a burn from the upper thigh to heel. 

Louis, a creole Negro has a GDV brand on his right chest and Ferct Mtre on 
the left. 

At Cap a slave branded Magon 4 ‘with both cars cut off” 

Jcan-PhUlipe, a Mina, branded Chovet and claiming to belong to M. Dejean, 
businessman from Plainc. 

A new Negro woman bearing on her left breast the brand IRC and a clover- 

Titus, a Congo branded Portal* 

Dianne, a Mesurade, branded P.L. intertwined with a heart. 

Clearly, there was no set way of branding. Usually brands were applied 
on the right or left breast of both sexes, sometimes on both. Sometimes they 
carried the full name of the owner or of the plantation. Occasionally brands 
included the full name of the owner or the plantation, the address spelled out 
or abbreviated, for example, St.M. for Saint-Marc; P.A.P. for Port-au-Prince; 
P.P*X* for Port-de-Paix, and so forth* 37 When slaves were acquired by new 
masters their brands were changed* Attempts would be made, not always 
successfully, to invalidate the old brand by defacing it. 

Excessive branding resulted in obliteration. The chests of certain slaves 
were covered with intersecting brands in which the letters were so inter¬ 
twined as to make the brand illegible. Most brands were stamped in a straight 
line, some in horseshoe design or in reversed letters* On rare occasions a 
master taken by whim would brand on the arm, the shoulders or in the 
middle of the chest, or would embellish the brand with figurative signs such 
as crosses or stars. 

Sometimes slaves bore no brands. It has been claimed that this was a 
privilege enjoyed by creole slaves. Proud of this distinction, they w'ould feel 
humiliated and consider themselves subjected to the worst of punishments if 

Branding 147 

because of marronage the master were to brand them. Was this privilege, 
reserved for the creole born, in such general practice as to become the rule? 
Runaway slave notices shed doubt on such a claim. Certainly we note fewer 
creole than newly crcolized slaves branded, but in contrast we observe that 
many new arrivals and even some crcolized slaves—crcolized in the sense 
of having passed a year in the colony, bore no brand. These were slaves of 
every origin—Bambaras, Mondongos, Mozambiques, Hausas, Congos, Nagos, 
Minas, Mandingos, Ibos, Aradas, among others. 

The initials of the owners were used, as, for example, L.S., B.D., M.V., 
and so on. As this could often lead to confusion, the entire name was more 
often used in the brand when the given name, the address, or even the status 
of the master was not included: Marie Catherine Heylidor, young Castor, 
Widow Moullet, Marie-Elisabeth, creole of Dandon; Saint-Valine Haut- 
Moustique, M.L., free mulatto. 

More than others, freedmen tended to display their qualifications and 
titles on the chests of their slaves. Some masters made use of a double, even 
a triple brand. We see slaves thus branded in 1764 and in 1791. The mulatto 
Louis Durocher was branded four times by his masters, M. Daufor of Cap. 

All this indicates a great variety of practices preferred by owners, includ¬ 
ing fantasies. We have found records of slaves with face brands: 

“A new negro, Congo, age twenty-two, five feet one inch tall, bearing on 
his stomach the marks of his country and on his face the brand H,C/’ 3S 
"Alexander Louis, property of M. Volant of Port-au-Prince, with the 
brand ‘Volant’ on both sides of the breast and on the cheeks”; a Mozambique 
branded Jacques and in addition wearing at the neck “a piece of wood in¬ 
scribed Lcsperance as a label.” 30 

We also discovered the peculiar brand that Caradeux, the Cruel, of Plaine 
du Cul-de-Sac had invented for punishing runaway slaves: "A runaway slave 
wearing on the left of his chest and on his shoulder the brand T am a 
maroon* and below that, ‘Caradeux/ 

The following instructions are included in a regulation of 9 May 1789, 
relative to the southern region of Saint-Domingue. 

“Captains of foreign vessels shall be required to have branded with the 
three letters IPS, every negro in their shipment, within ten days of arrival 
in the warehousing port/* 41 

The General Assembly of the French Port of Saint-Domingue chose to 
brand Maroons with the letter R . 

On the motion proposing that brigands who lay down their arms and to 
whom It might be considered fitting to grant their lives or on w r hom judgment 
should be suspended, are to be branded with hot iron such that they will 
always be recognized among those who have in no wise participated in revolt 
and who shall have remained faithful to their masters. Whereas it would be 
most ill-advised to have these negroes return to the plantations of their mas¬ 
ters to mingle with those wbo have taken no part in the revolt [The Assembly] 


has decreed and does now decree that negroes who have laid down their arms 
shall not suffer immediate death and shall be marked on the check with a hot 
iron bearing the letter /?*= before being returned to the plantations of their 

Almost on the very eve of the General Proclamation of Liberty—barely 
four months before—Sonthonax and Polvdret would try to use the brand to 
combat marronage. The fugitive slave was to be stamped with the letter M 
signifying Maroon on the left shoulder—an abbreviation of the Caradeux 
extravagance. Following, in excellent Creole* of the time, are the penalties 
projected for fugitive slaves by the commissioners, who, hemmed in by 
events, subsequently honored themselves by abolishing slavery. “Any 
slave who shall remain a fugitive for more than one month . , . when 
caught shall have his ear cut off and shall have the letter M marked 
on his shoulder. 1 * [The recidivist] . . . “shall have his hamstrings cut and M 
marked on his left shoulder.” 

“Armed maroons shall be killed" 4 * (*\ . . io va touye io n ) 

It should be said in passing that Sonthonax personally in 1797 would dis¬ 
tribute thirty thousand guns to these same blacks “as a safeguard of their 
liberty.” The commissioners had not exhausted their opportunism. They 
sought support now from the whites, now from the freedmen, again from the 
slaves. It is not surprising to note that slyly they would remind the Africans 
in that same so curious proclamation that the troublemakers “io pas gagne 
parens dans Guinde” (will never again see their people in Africa). 

We know from information on captured Maroons from the English col¬ 
onies, that branding on the shoulder was the general practice. Many of the 
slaves from Martinique were not branded* Those from the eastern part of 
the island sometimes bore on the right shoulder brands with the arms of the 
King of Spain. Rarely did Saint-Domlngue colonists brand slaves on the 
stomach or shoulder. In contrast, slave-ship branding—the first the slave 
would receive—was sometimes applied to the shoulder, at times on the but¬ 
tocks or on the arm, rarely on the breasts, and rarer still in interlacing letters. 
The care exercised by slave merchants not to unduly damage their “merchan¬ 
dise” with too-visible branding scars prior to offering slaves to the colonists 
is understandable. The slave trader preferred to leave to the eventual buyers 
an unmarked, shining breast for their personal brands. For the same reason, 
ships’ brands were reduced to simple initials, L.R. for La Rosalie, arrived 
with Africans from Gold Coast, or L.C., Le Captif, from Nantes, arriving 
from Garde with a fine cargo of Senegalese. , . * 

It should now be noted that the brand was applied with a hot iron. 
According to Father Labat, the brand was first heated red hot, then applied 
to male or female breasts smeared beforehand with tallow or grease; “the 
flesh immediately swells, and, when the effect of the burn has passed, the 

Branding 149 

mark remains impressed on the skin with no possibility of its ever being 
effaced/' 44 

Such was the pain caused by the scaring brand, owners feared applying 
it to slave women in advanced pregnancy. 45 There were frequent accidents. 
They repeatedly resulted in so-called brutes —brands which left confusing, 
illegible letters on the “pimpled” flesh. Some slaves had two, even three 
“burnt brands'’ indicating a succession of clumsy operations. At different 
periods, especially in 1785, merchants at Cap or Port-au-Prince tried to 
popularize f4 an ink for branding slaves which brands very well without bad 
aftereffects/’ We find no dear indication of the adoption of this new proc¬ 
ess. 46 On the contrary, slaves resorting to marronage did not hesitate to muti¬ 
late by fire their brands, making them unrecognizable and thus thwarting 
any identification, as follows: 

“A black named Francis branded P.P. and Pardon St. Marc, has worked 
over his brands so as to make them unrecognizable, said black is customarily 
armed with a machete and a brace of pistols, claims to be free/' Of another 
Maroon it was said that his brands “may be somewhat worn out or else he 
may try to destroy them/' A common method for making the brands illegi¬ 
ble was to rub them with acajou nuts. At parrying in self-defense the slave 
was an inventive genius. 47 

The practice of hot branding was continued. It had the advantage of long 
experience. Besides, no colonist had ever bothered to discover whether or not 
the hot iron harmed the slave. All of them branded their slaves. The priests 
and the religious communities sometimes added to the initials of the congre¬ 
gations the symbol of the Cross of Christ. With not the slightest scruple 
Father Brard could publish the following announcement in the S.A.A.: 

Father Brard, ordained Apostolic Missionary of the Capucin Order by Papal 
Bulls, Letters patent of the King and Decrees of the Parliament at Paris and 
of the Conseil Superieur of Port-au-Prince, formerly parish priest at Cap 
Dame-Marie having for business reasons arranged his departure for Versailles 
on the twelfth of this month has for sale two handsome young blacks branded 
with his name, .. * 

Belatedly one is revolted by such lack of humaneness on the part of a 
disciple of the gentle Nazarene who taught the w r orld the meaning of Love 
and Brotherhood. But this is to forget that the setting is Saint-Domingue, a 
land where as they fed upon the slaves and ground the bones, the colonials 
ignored even the pause for digestion observed by wild beasts. . . . 

National Markings 

HISTORIANS HAVE UNANIMOUSLY condemned the colonists for brand¬ 
ing human beings 10 as though they were cattle and with this stamp of humili¬ 
ation merging them with the horse, the ox, and the mule. The sentiment is 
praiseworthy. But for the slave the wearing of a brand was not a novelty. 
What was humiliating was that the purpose of the brand was to symbolize 
his subjection to slavery in a distant land and not, as traditional in Africa, 
to mark his relationship to a people or even to a master of his own ethnic 
group of which he wore the distinctive marking. The difference is consider¬ 
able, In general, the African brand, apart from its tribal character, did not 
symbolize servitude. Its marks were far removed from any such meaning. 
They were, rather, national markings, marques du pays as they were called. 50 

With scarcely an exception, every bossale, every new slave, wore these 
marks. They were carved on the temples, the length of the face or on the 
cheeks, on the front of the body, between the eyebrows and on the chest. The 
diversity of locations chosen for the markings, incisions, scars, or tattoos is 
noted in the descriptions. There was no fixed rule about this. The practice 
varied from one people to another and the jumbled assembling of the cap¬ 
tives in baracoom while they waited for the slave ships, their being mixed in 
the loading of these ships and sold as fast as they arrived in the colonies 
make improbable any fruitful inquiry into the differing marks of each 
nation. On this subject descriptions indicate only the infinite variety and 
placement of these marks, betraying the same inability as do even those who 
have long lived in present-day Africa to reliably distinguish tribal and ethnic 
relationships by means of these markings. 

Further on we will observe special signs peculiar to certain “nations,” 
which depended on the same tribal affiliations: male or female with an ear 
or upper lip pierced for a ring, or holes in the cheek, nose or lip. The 
Affiches gives as a singular example the case of a Congo woman, Rose, who 
had “no national marks on her face.” Usually, Congo women had “two or 
three little lumps near the temple,” The men were less frequently marked. 
Calvary women wore “long markings from temple to neck,” For Arada 
women, the descriptions note “Arada marks on each temple” and, for Mo- 
zambiques, “marks on the forehead and close to the temple,” 

Some markings must also have been adapted to certain popular beliefs. 



In the Haitian countryside there still exists the custom of disfiguring an infant 
born particularly handsome and healthy by making incisions on the child’s 
face, thus to protect him against the spell of evil spirits, that is, to prevent 
his being singled out for an unhappy fate (maldioc)* by the envious and 
the jealous. Some of the following markings especially arouse the curiosity. 
For example, on 1 November 1783, a new Negro “with marks of his country 
on his face, and on the right side of his chest the form of a D * On 3 De¬ 
cember 1783 we find r 'a black with a sign representing a racket on his right 
chest,” and on 6 December 1783 a new Negro “with a kind of crown on 
the right side of the head/* It is not unreasonable to consider that in Africa 
these particular signs are indications of noble families, that we are in the 
presence of captives of sound stock—leaders, warriors, nobles, princes or 
high nobility of organized communities taken in some merciless manhunt 
and shipped out or else simply sold following a tribal war. Saint-Mery records 
a frequent Saint-Domingue scene: 

Recognizing by these markings members of the nobility of their home¬ 
land, Mina negroes prostrate themselves at their feet to render homage the 
which is in such contrast with the state of servitude to which these princes 
have been reduced in the colony as to offer a rather striking picture of the 
uncertainties of human grandeur.* 1 

Many of the “marks” found here and there in sifting through the Saint- 
Domingue press should be linked with a similar observation. For example, 
in 1764, mention w r as made of a new Negro from the Maroons of Cap and 
the surrounding area “with two marks shaped like a heart on his stomach”; in 
1783 two Congos “with a mark in the form of an O,” a new Negro “with a 
national marking resembling a chain extending from the left shoulder to the 
stomach,” a slave “with national marks on his temples, behind the neck and 
on his stomach forming a large cross.” 52 In other years we find descriptions 
such as the following: 

Three Congos “with national marks in the form of a square on the face.” 
. . . A Maroon displaying on his lower abdomen something like “a square 
with nailheads.” * , . Jean-Phillipe, Congo, “has pointed teeth and marks on 
his breasts in the shape of a cross.” ... A Mossombi, Paul, with marks fes¬ 
tooned on his face. ... A new Negro with marks forming two broad columns 
on his lower abdomen; another with national markings in the form of a St. 
Andrew’s cross—Tiis name is Bouquart. ... A female belonging to Mme. 
Chatelin of Artibonite marked with three points on the face. Two new 
Negroes, Congos, with a horseshoe brand and with a star on the left side of 
the chest and native marks in the form of little bunches of flowers. ... A 
newly arrived Congo with a lizard on the right of his chest; another with a 
marking in the form of a chalice; an Ibo with a mark like a snail. . , . Two 

*A voodoo word meaning "‘bad spell/ 1 

National Markings 153 

Mondongo Negroes “with very pointed black teeth, stomach scarred in the 
fashion of their nation, a sort of crescent on the arm, both wearing ecru- 
colored pants/* These Africans are out of the vessel Jeune Auguste and be¬ 
long to Trouillot and Company, bakers, Fronts-Forts Street, Port-au- 
Prince^ 3 


Special Characteristics 

UNDER THIS HEADING will be grouped those characteristics pertaining to 
skin color, hair, dentition, and bearing, as given in Maroon descriptions. With¬ 
out doubt individual examples and exceptional cases of these special charac¬ 
teristics play a part in providing certain contradictions to the unique notes 
left by Moreau de Saint-Mery. Nevertheless these notes allow us to attempt a 
re-creation of the physical type of these ancestors of the Haitian community* 

In terms of shades of skin color the average seemed to be somewhere be¬ 
tween the ebony-black Senegalese, or Bambaras, and the lighter-skinned 
Poules, Poulards, or Peuls. The true type of Saint-Domingue slave was 
found in the areas of the Gold Coast and the Congo and Angola kingdoms* 
Theirs was not the ebony black so much in demand, and considered a sign 
of beauty by the slavers and slaves alike,® 4 nor the reddish tint, both found 
in great numbers. It was rather a skin color “not extremely black” when 
compared with the jet black of certain African ethnics, nor “reddish” enough 
to approximate, however slightly, that of the Peuls or Foulahs, except when 
accompanied by their refinement of features. The latter had crossbred in a 
long-distant past, but were scarcely numerous in Saint-Domingue. ss We would 
be better oriented if before examining the bits of information provided by 
the descriptions we were to note Saint-Mery's observations. The Senegalese, 
he noted, were ebony colored, tall, slender, and well built, with a long nose 
“somewhat like that of the whites” and hair a bit less woolly than that of 
most of the other slaves. The Yolofs were even darker and the Bambaras 
taller with an awkward, timid manner. The Guiambas were much the same. 

The Mandingos were of a lighter complexion. Gold Coast slaves “do 
not have a really black skin but rather a yellowish tint that could cause many 
of them to be considered mulattoes. They are well built, bright-eyed with 
small ears, thick eyebrows, a fiat and slightly turned up nose, a rather large 
mouth, white teeth, shiny skin and hair long enough for plaiting.” This was 
how he depicted Caplaous, Minas, Socos, Fantins, Sossos, Aradas and Da- 
homeys, Ibos and Nagos. 

Finally, among the many ethnic groups in Saint—Domingue towards the 
end of colonization, those from the Congo and from the kingdom of Angola 
had a skin color between that of the Senegalese and the Gold Coast Africans. 
They were of moderate height and lively countenance. The Mozambiques 



from East Africa with a few samplings from Madagascar or Maurice were 
“not extremely dark * * . taller than Congos and Angolans, with exception¬ 
ally long arms and a weak constitution*” 

As for the women brought into the colony, the Poulards were, in the per¬ 
fection of their symmetry “a masterpiece of creation*” Arada women were 
heavy in the hips and thighs, practiced excision as did Sossos and Poulards, 
and found it hard to learn French. Calvary women had disproportionately 
large bosoms, however for all that were yet very beautiful* The palm went 
to the Congo women, impassioned dancers and singers with their vivacious 
faces, their pleasure-seeking and fondness for adornments, their delight in 
love affairs. 5 * 

Saint-Mcry rounded off his recollection by describing the men as being 
all polygamous, libertine, jealous, usually sober, almost beardless, not turn¬ 
ing gray until very old* The women, he noted, had an incorrigible penchant 
for black men, gave themselves dissolutely and without pleasure to white 
men, and accepted sharing their husbands with other women commonly re¬ 
ferred to as “sailors’ wives*” This African custom, it can be said in passing, 
has been perpetuated among us, encouraged by polygamy with an economic 
basis, giving to a wealthy peasant the privilege of having on each of his 
plots of land a little mama (mother of his children). As for the creole Afri¬ 
cans, yet to be discussed, except for the very few Moorish slaves and the 
rare albinos, victims of apigmentation at birth, 57 Samt-Mery grants them 
“intelligence, graceful lithe bodies and attractive faces.” 

Let us now examine the information provided by the descriptions, the 
main features of which I have outlined from abundant examples* First, con¬ 
cerning variety in skin colors, advertisements in the Saint-Domingue press 
often take into consideration the colonial custom of describing that color as 
more or less black. Skin color was examined, as it were, under a microscope, 
representing a truly difficult feat and revealing an almost bidden obsession of 
the colonial mentality: they were determined to find among the slaves grada¬ 
tions of color that were almost imperceptible. Another quirk in the colonial 
mentality was the attribution of a “goat odor” to blacks and mulattocs, a 
reputed defect in slaves from Angola* 5 ® 

As regards this practice of coloring in comparative shades of black after 
the colonial manner, it has not been possible to determine at first glance the 
meaning of descriptions of Maroons as “red” Negroes. The Affiches Ameri- 
caines and other Saint-Dominguc journals provide a long list of Maroons 
described as “red of skin,” “having a rather red skin,” “very red,” “reddish 
negress,” “slightly reddish*” We would further be confused by such contra¬ 
dictory statements as the following: 

“Cato, a Congo negress with a face as red as a griffonne” on the one 
hand, and, on the other, “Silvain, mulatto slave, with such a dark skin he is 
more likely to be taken for a grille than for a mulatto, usually wears a head 
scarf over short, curly hair.” 

Special Characteristics 157 

lf Rcd as a griff onne” or “dark as a griff onne” are not contradictions. 
These designations are intended to describe a female as light-skinned as a 
griffone and a mulatto as dark as a griffe. 

In short, the explanation would be that a "red negro” is one who is not 
very black. It is, besides, the sense that has remained attached to this desig¬ 
nation. Such is the historical explanation of this word passed down directly 
from the colonial period and so current in Haitian speech. What is confusing 
is to see this characteristic “red Negro,” which designated the Guinean group 
and especially slaves from the Gold Coast, used to indicate Senegalese as 
well as Congos and Angolas. This overlapping of characteristics will also be 
observed for many other traits, all of which mark as rather useless the at¬ 
tempts at microscopical skin examinations to which the colonists wished to 
submit the slaves of Saint-Domingue. 

r lhus, to be found among the Maroons were: 

Rosalie, a reddish Mandingo * * . Charles, Congo, red of skin . . . 
L’Eveille, Mondongo, red of skin ... A new Negro, heavily built with red 
skin . * . Lafieur, Ibo, red skin ♦ .. Jean, a creole with red skin . * . Angelique, 
Nago woman, very red . * . Arcinte, Nago woman, very red . . , Louis 
Bordin, very red creole ... a Nago male, red skin . . . another Nago with 
reddish skin . , . Simon, a Senegalese with reddish skin ... a very red mu¬ 
latto Indian . . . an Ibo with red skin . . . Petit-Picrrc, Congo has red face.,, . 

Thus it appears that all the ethnic groups, Sudanese as well as Bantu and 
Guineans, which assured the populating of the colony, numbered in their 
ranks the type of red blacks “bordering on” the griffe, according to the co¬ 
lonial scale. Did Saint-M£ry by mistake limit the descriptive “red” to certain 
ethnics or—what is less likely—were these special indications which the 
colonists in search of their slaves, now Maroons, were bent on providing, 
especially if this unusual color were in these cases particularly distinctive of 
such or another slave and not therefore generalized? It is the same with hair 
and beard, about which we know that “almost beardless” and “short, woolly 
hair” hardly typify the slave. By indicating contrary characteristics, the ad¬ 
vertisements again contradict Moreau de Saint-Mery. It is not only mulatto 
Caribs who had “long very thick and black hair” or “wear their hair in pig¬ 
tail,” like the slave Zarnor or Indian slaves in general. There is the black 
woman, Arina, “wearing her hair long,” the creole Alexis “with braided 
hair,” Hazard, “a male with black hair and a queue tied with a ribbon.” 
There was the dark-skinned Lafortune, a Coromantee “very dark with long 
hair,” Jean-Jacques, a creole slave “has his hair braided,” Hector, a Congo, 
wears a pigtail. Joseph, a Peid, has “long thick hair always dressed with a 
buckle and in a long queue.” 

Infrequently there was to be found “a Congo black without hair,” a 
Congo “with red hair,” or Ibo “with a half-shaven head” or a bald Negro. 50 
Particularly surprising after statements to the contrary by Saint-Mery, there 


was an even greater number of bearded slaves, as follows: Claude, a bearded 
creole violinist * , * a new Negro, gray-bearded . , . Suzanne, a creole in Trou, 
long hair down to her waist * . . a heavily bearded Congo . . . three new 
Sosso with long beards, fugitives from Mr Plat Despres* place called *Agr£- 
able-Vue (today Desprez-Bellevue) located at Morne de rHopital™ . . . 
Louis, a Congo with a tuft of beard around the mouth , , , a new slave, 
Congo, with a long beard. The same observation is to be made with respect 
to Moreau dc Saint-Mery's statements about teeth and what the advertise¬ 
ments reveal about them. 

Saint-Mery states that the Mondongos and the Mousombis were canni¬ 
bals, This may be so, and it is not by chance that our folklore has perpetu¬ 
ated the tale in which Malice with great relish cats Bouqui's mother. Would 
this belief as held by Saint-Mery be based on the fact that Mondongos and 
Mousombis had ‘‘incisors filed down into so many sharp, flesh-ripping canine 
teeth 1 *? 01 How then explain the custom of “sharpened teeth 1 * noted in the 
descriptions, not for Mondongos and Mousombis alone, but for the Aradas, 
Ibos, Congos and Nagos? 

Many of those so described were by no means lovers of human flesh, 
this practice having been illustrated only once during all the period of 
colonization and then by a white 113 who, in order to chastise a slave, tore him 
apart with his teeth. 

A male Ibo with sharpened teeth , , , a Nago male with reddish skin 
and teeth filed « . . a Congo with pointed upper teeth ... a Nago with red 
skin and upper teeth filed , , . Azar, an Ibo male, black face, front teeth 
filed and blackened . , , Jean-Phillipe, male Congo with pointed teeth. . . . 
Upon looking at the multiple examples in each of the ethnics, one might 
suppose that Saint-M6ry sometimes drew conclusions lightly. Again, it was he 
who saddled the same Mondongos, this time linked with the Calvary people, 
with indulging in unnatural vices, 411 which it was said the aborigines of the 
island had long ago adopted as custom. These vices have not in any case 
surfaced in the Haitian community. They are moreover considered nonexist¬ 
ent—a rather rare circumstance in today’s world—especially in the rural 
areas, among the peasants, who comprise three-quarters of our population 
but have not been touched by this almost universal and long established 
wave of sexual perversions. 

In contrast, Mozambique males, those of Madagascar and the contingents 
from East Africa did practice castration. It is known that eunuch slaves from 
this part of Africa found an assured outlet in the harems of the Orient. In 
Saint-Dominguc we find a slave named Henry, a Maroon, with no brand, 
who had been described as “a eunuch from youth/* He did not know the 
name of his '‘nation” and because of this it could not be affirmed that he was 
a Mozambique. 

Saint-Mery would also claim that Calvary women, though very beautiful, 
w'ere nevertheless spoiled by overgenerous breasts. We find creoles who also 

Special Characteristics 159 

il have oversized breasts’* and even, strange to say, the Mandingo Leger, a 
slave in Saint-Marc parish, “with breasts like a woman,” or Teton, “a male 
with a bosom like a woman/* Whatever the case, deformed, fallen, and pen¬ 
dulous breasts resulted from the custom among African mothers of carrying 
their infants behind them securely attached by a large band of cloth thus 
exerting an excessive and continuous pull on the breasts and misshaping 
them from the time of first maternity* The rare times that descriptions read 
“firm breasts” were in the cases of young girls or young women between 
fifteen and twenty years of age* Insofar as pierced cheeks, ears and noses 
are concerned, the “descriptions” generalized these customs for all ethnics* 
The Mozambiqucs still observe in our time the practice of piercing the nose 
and introducing into the orifice a vegetable stem, a tress of cotton, or a 
spongy tissue for filtering impurities and other forms of pollution in the air* 
Sometimes the advertisements provide such descriptions: 

Desiree, a Nago, has two holes in her nose, one through her lip . * » a 
Thiamba male pierced through the cartilage separating the nostrils . . * Sara, 
a new black with pierced cars and aquiline nose , , . Marguerite, a Thiamba, 
has her upper lip pierced . - , Charlemagne, a new Negro, has his ears 
pierced * * « a slave woman “with a hole in each ear for introducing a calumet 
de cachimbo -” fl * Rose, a new black Congo, having both ears pierced . . * 
Vene, a new black, wearing several necklaces . . . Adelaide, an Arad a, with 
her nose pierced . . * Couacou, a Quiamba, “with a ring in his nose*” In a 
general sense, one can look for a portrait of the slave in ail of this odd con¬ 
glomeration of special signs only by grouping traits becoming common when 
they are frequently repeated and by eliminating oddities relating only to such 
and such a slave. 

Of course, one would not take into consideration for example the fact 
that some slaves might have had “four toes,” “six toes,” or even “no toes on 
the left foot,” or perhaps had a “white testicle.” On the other hand, we would 
take into account “very large navels”—these cases being much more fre¬ 
quent and those malformations arising from hasty and charlatan methods of 
ablating the umbilical cord in the course of deliveries devoid of even the 
most elementary precautionary measures. In the same view, we will accept 
as indices supplied by advertisements those details which clearly characterize 
the slave and serve to reconstruct his image* 

Some examples: The very dark skin of the Sudanese group of Africans— 
Senegalese, Yolofs and Bambaras* This unadulterated blackness (netie el 
franche ), this shining skin providing a dark background for the greater 
brightness of the eyes and whiteness of teeth helped the trader to win a bonus 
as much as did good health, which experienced merchants knew how to de¬ 
termine by licking the chin of the slave, to discover through the taste of the 
sweat if the captive was perfectly healthy or not* 

The red or reddish skin, the deep-set eyes, exceptionally beautiful teeth, 
the bowlegs, knockknees and fiat feet; the red eyes, the retrousse top lip, 


the red-horde red lips, widely spaced or defective teeth, the flat nose, bulging 
eyes, well-turned legs and thighs, the pretty face, heavy lips, a well-built 
(cambre) male, heavy and robust, knockknees, dark eyes, a beautifully shaped 
woman, a stocky male, full regular features, a round face and one elongated, 
a lazy gait, an aquiline nose. * * . From one slave or another, all these charac¬ 
teristics derive in thousands of examples* We shall see, further on, informa¬ 
tion about height, which will round off the physical type of Saint-Domittgue 
Africans as described to us in the “announcements* 7 ' 


Physiological Condition 
of the Maroons 

SLAVE ADVERTISEMENTS described the condition of Maroons recap¬ 
tured and taken to jail and of those still fugitive. They were, for example, 
described as “very robust,” or “has good complexion,” “thin and worn out,” 
or “bent and worn out.” In addition to these general descriptions, mention 
was made of specific infirmities: (deaf, a mute, blind, simpleminded); com¬ 
mon illnesses (hernia, yaws, scabies, aging, pregnancy), the effects of hunger 
or of epidemics (smallpox), and also the evidence of work accidents or of 
fights during pursuit and capture, clearly evident scars resulting from the 
whip and other cruelties of slavery. All told, a most atrocious picture. 

Malnutrition appears to have been the most distressing lot of the slave, 
representing the most serious and incomprehensible negligence on the part 
of the colonist. Tn order to adequately feed himself, the slave had frequently 
to resort to pillage. When he stole cane, it was at the risk of terrible pun¬ 
ishment. At night he would venture forth to filch from a neighbor's or from 
the plantation garden perhaps some sweet potatoes, or an ear of com, green 
bananas not yet ripe. Sometimes to satisfy his hunger he had to content him¬ 
self with a few wild roots and tubers boiled in water lacking salt and fat. The 
more fortunate by chance managed to trap a bird or catch a fish or some 
small game. On the plains marked for cane cultivation, the areas to be 
planted were despoiled of the unwanted shade trees. Thus all the fruit trees 
had disappeared. They could have been providentially helpful as is the mango 
tree today, providing over the long months as it does a miracle food. 

The mango tree was first introduced in Saint—Domingue in 1784 with 
some plants from the island of Bourbon, later varieties being imported through 
Jamaica in 1787. GS In contrast, already known were the papaya, apricot, 
pineapple, melon, mombin, custard apple, cacone (or little calabash), guava, 
sapodilla, jaune d'oeuf, orange, and that other miracle fruit, the avocado,® 8 
Stealing and pillaging helped the slave to live, rather survive, on this fortui¬ 
tous diet—a very difficult battle when the little personal garden no longer 
existed, when the drought was killing off millet and sweet potatoes, and the 
master withheld the handouts of manioc and meat. It is not surprising that 
hunger decimated the mass of slaves constrained to the hard labor of the 



plantations and the factories. It has been noted that, whenever the subsistence 
gardens were ravaged by prolonged drought, first to be affected were the 
slave gardens, for which water could be provided only by rainfall or when 
stolen from the master, or by floods which carried off arable soil along with 
plants and birds; the resulting scarcity of food would bring on an increase 
in marronage. This is quite possible and apparently a logical conclusion. 
Letters of the plantation managers expressly support the idea. Nevertheless, 
the graph described by fugitive slave announcements docs not provide any 
significant indication of correspondingly renewed outbreaks of marronage. 
The parish of Saint-Marc provides a case in point. 

Whether because communication facilities made it possible for colonists 
to place fugitive slave notices in the press, or whether because of its position 
as a crossroads providing immediate access to the fertile neighboring plains, 
both by the Petite Riviere and the Black Mountain on the frontier road, and 
Grandcs Savancs, then Spanish, Saint-Marc bears the well-deserved reputa¬ 
tion of having been one of the main centers of marronage. When, in 1784, 
in the Saint-Marc region, floods destroyed food crops, the administration 
permitted American ships to enter the port of Saint-Marc so as to provide 
settlers “food for their slaves,” This measure was in force from July to 

In 1789, this time following a bitter winter that reduced exportations and 
delayed ships supplying Saint-Dominguc, the administration was again obliged 
to open this port to the entry of certain items, such as foreign flour and bis¬ 
cuits* Adopted April 1, this measure was extended to 1790. Yet, neither 
before nor during the severe shortage of crops or importations from France, 
nor even afterward when food supplies were again normal and the port 
again closed did the number of Maroons vary significantly. At all limes the 
numbers were high. Such a verified fact seems to cast doubt on the appar¬ 
ently logical assertion. Could it have been that, in the mind of the slave, the 
period of deprivation he was experiencing was not generalized and, therefore, 
hardly a good time to attempt to take to the hills? Could it be that, discon¬ 
certed by these circumstances, the slave discerned the wisdom of sharing 
his misfortune in familiar surroundings (among known comrades) from 
whom, somehow or other, he could hope for ultimate help? A plausible 
hypothesis, one that draws reinforcement from the practice of slave owners 
during such disasters* 9 either to close their eyes to thefts of cane or to relieve 
the slaves of sole responsibility for solving the food problem. 

It is known that in these situations the manager, with an eye to the feed¬ 
ing of the work gang, would break out reserves of cured fish or meat so as 
to avoid excessive deaths. It was in times like these that the slave received 
his food directly from the manager who would rather split himself in two 
than incur the justified wrath of the proprietor because of a consistently in¬ 
adequate program of nourishment.* 9 Did this occasional good fortune come 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 163 

into play in times of food shortage, and did the slave tend to exploit this fat 
and unexpected windfall? 

However strange such a hypothesis, it is the only one worthy of con¬ 
sideration in light of the marronage graph figures showing absolutely no 
correlation with these occasional periods of food shortage. As a matter of 
fact, what is most often meant by the term “food shortage” (disette) is a 
shortage of flour, biscuits, meat, dried fish and, even more, provisions for 
the big house. Moreover, it was the masters who then found themselves short 
of wines and butter, the complement of ships’ consignments in their behalf. 

As for the slaves, alas! it is only too well known that whatever came 
down to them was doled out throughout the year in driblets or not at all. 
Whatever the case, the example of Saint-Marc is, doubtlessly, insufficient to 
support so bold a conclusion. Admittedly, it suffers from limitations of time 
and space. Let us examine another example of the long-range effect, however 
relative, of food shortage on marronage declared in advertisements. We will 
consider the period beginning with the end of the American war and continu¬ 
ing to the revolts of 1791—an eight-year period embracing the colony as a 
whole. Herein are observable on the one hand certain causes of marronage 
such as increased workload in forced labor, a result of prosperity and the 
habit of reducing the number of field hands in favor of excessively enlarged 
domestic staffs; sometimes epidemics, droughts or floods. On the other 
hand, there were factors likely to discourage marronage: extension of the 
requirement to provide slave gardens and to establish food crops, a certain 
evolution in the mentality of the colonist leading to relative amelioration of 
slave conditions, and, the war concluded, the reinforcement of slave disci¬ 
pline and surveillance, a more active organization of searches and slave pur¬ 
suits by the police. In sum, for a slave’s lot, even if relatively improved, there 
were increased measures for thwarting escapes. What was the evolution of 
marronage during these years of great prosperity? 

Clearly the answer is that the number of Maroons multiplied and con¬ 
tinued to multiply at, no doubt, an alarming rate. The following figures and 
commentary illustrate the point. 

With respect to the effect of shortages in the food supply there was no 
apparent increase in runaway slaves. Neither was there an increase during 
epidemics such as the smallpox epidemic still rampant in 1783, 1784 and 
1785. Continuous malnutrition must have served as one cause of slave 
runaways. Occasional food shortages and epidemics seemed in any case, to 
have increased slave mortality rather than slave desertions. This is not the 
direction in which basic causes for slave flights must be sought. The slaves 
were more hungry for freedom than for food. There is no other explanation 
for this sharp increase in marronage during the period of great prosperity in 

Let us look deeper into the matter. Some of my colleagues, thinking they 
had detected a decrease in the number of slave flights beginning In 1789, were 


truly astonished at this apparent slackening of marronage at precisely the 
moment when revolt was beginning to nimble and the general uprising of the 
slaves was close at hand. First of all, the statement is without foundation. 
Far from diminishing, marronage increased markedly. Should it have been 
possible to discern in this rapid escalation breaks due to some specific strat¬ 
egy? No one would refuse to acknowledge, had they existed, voluntary re¬ 
gressions, which would, moreover, be self-explanatory. But it is impossible 
not to acknowledge evidence that the graph of slave flights rises sharply 
without a break. This increase would quickly become open rebellion, im¬ 
parting to the maroon movement an impetus towards the armed revolts 
which were from the beginning associated with it. What has not been said 
is that, rather than a diminution in the number of flights, there was periodi¬ 
cally a reduction in fugitive slave advertisements. Why? We will attempt an 

Beginning with the Revolution of 1789, a new colonial mentality began 
to take form. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was not without echo. 
No longer was it “Long live the King/’ but, rather, “Long live the Nation, 
the Law and the King.” Further, there were colonists who hastened to delete 
from their names particles and endings such as “du” and “des”, likely to be 
misinterpreted and taken as evidence of political alliance with a nobility 
increasingly in disgrace. 

The Gazette des Caves adopted an ironical note in an open letter to sub¬ 

Please if you will, Gentlemen, forgive us if because of the allegiance and 
obedience we owe to the municipal officers representing the commune of Le$ 
Cayes you find our succeeding editions arid, dry and consequently barren of 
the slightest interest. We shall focus heavily on exact details and circumstances 
concerning stray animals: They wilt be described in such manner as to make 
them recognizable without your having to inconvenience yourself with a visit 
to the jail. This cannot fail to be very entertaining, especially in times of 
trouble when strays arc to be seen everywhere. . . 

Who can fail to understand that these “animals,” these “strays,” and “un¬ 
claimed'* were in great numbers none other than slaves? 

Consider these orders issued to the press: 

We likewise insist that you conform ... to article 4 of the Decree of the 
4lh of January last which declares as follows: “All discussions about coloreds, 
free negroes and slaves is forbidden Gazctecrs and Journalists.*’ You will 
therefore delete from the pages you present for clearance all items which 
could be considered contrary to this provision. ... 

Three months later the Les Cayes newspaper noted with, again, the same 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 165 

Since we are unable to provide any colonial news whatsoever we are 
going to pull together observations about various realms made by the best 
political writers. .,. 

Sufficiently suggestive? 

Nothing prevents the publishing of fugitive-slave advertisements or notices 
of slave ship arrivals. Only in the South, and only in 1792 was there official 
proscription against any declaration concerning slaves and freedmen, although 
that regulation did not dose the door on bulletins about slave-ship arrivals 
nor on announcements of slave flights. Masters were til at ease about dis¬ 
playing publicly anything relating to the slave trade and slavery. Hence the 
silence about marronage. Few colonists still dared to declare their losses. Is 
it inappropriate to describe henceforth the increasing desertions? The man¬ 
agers were happy with this almost general silence. Besides, they were the 
least inclined to declare fugitives; that reflected with indiscreet eloquence the 
abuses of which they were precisely guilty, beginning with the cruelties and 
the hunger which they inflicted on the work gangs. The proprietors were 
then almost all of them in France, and the managers took advantage of this 
absenteeism to pressure the stave and to make illicit profit on clothes and 
food. It is clear they were happy about the silence easily extended over 
Maroon activity. This silence cloaked their hidden gains. Other colonists, 
nevertheless, did dare to announce flights. In the future, they would con¬ 
tinue to do so, frequently in veiled language. During certain periods none of 
them wished to mention the word “marronage”—the word had become scan¬ 
dalous. Mention becomes rather a question of subtle metaphors—“stray 
slaves,” a slave “who perhaps has been led astray” or “suborned.” Request 
was made that “Those who have given him shelter return him to the owner.” 

With the same reticence a Jercmie advertisement described “a slave about 
four months an emigre.” In the new climate the word “emigre” seems less 
shocking than “Maroon,” Of the use of timid approximations or of the 
straining for a curious innocence in words—as though vainly to disguise a 
shame—there are many examples in the style of the following advertisement: 

A young slave named Anthony, Congo, bearing the brand Claudine and 
lower down. Cap, an emigre since 25 September. Those having information 
on his whereabouts are asked to inform Mr, Castillon. Spanish Street, the 
home of his Mistress. 71 

Nothing better indicates the new tone in the press during the years 1792, 
1793 than these rather suggestive extracts from the daily Cap newspaper 
Le Moniteur General de la Partie Frangaise de SainUDomingue or from Uami 
de VEgalite: 

For sale, a plantation six leagues from Cap with thirty slaves remaining 
of eighty-six who were on the plantation before the insurrection. The public 


is advised that the pastoral charge at Cap is vacant due to the sailing of 
Abbe Cibot. All who wish to apply for this opening are advised that no one 
will be considered who finds it difficult to pronounce the word “republic”, 

“Wanted, someone willing to place a group of twenty negroes on an 
active coffee plantation in a section of the colony which was not burned out, 
A suitable business for one who has salvaged negroes from the insurrection.” 

Further, it was the period when Sonthonax, on 30 December 1792 announced; 

The judgment that a sortie against the slaves is absolutely necessary invites 
all citizens of good faith to register with the Secretariat of the Government. 

Announcements of sales of stray or incarcerated slaves hardly ever ap¬ 
peared now in the press. Even the government itself recoiled from fulfilling 
its obligations in these troubled, anguished times, when colonists announce 
their intention to free their slaves more often than they declared in embar¬ 
rassed terms, continued flights of the latter. 

—A new Mozambique black strayed. 

—A black slave woman has disappeared. Any persons sheltering her are asked 
to return her to Madame Mompelier at Petit-Car£nage. 

—A negro hairdresser has been absent from her owner five or six days, 

—Emigrated, a Mondongo named Francis. Left last night after having served 
the same master for forty-five years. 

—A young creole black from Charleston emigrated since the previous 

—Strayed last Saturday afternoon a black cow with white spots, ready to drop 
her calf. Carries Maze brand on one thigh. 

Curiously enough the same caution obtained even when mentioning the 
field animals which were always lumped with the Africans. On the other hand, 
the most frequent announcements were of the following type: 

—Citizen Bailly Blanchard announces his intention to free his Negress Gen¬ 

Citizen J. B, La Fontangc plans to give Negress Maric-Calherine her freedom. 
—Citizen Dujardin, authorized agent for Bane de Saint-Vincent and resident 
of Quartier-Morin, proposes to set at liberty the creole negress Genevieve. 

—Citizen Marie-Marthe intends to give Marie-Pautine her mulatto slave her 

—Citizen Dufeuil is about to take steps to free a mulatress in recompense for 
her faithful service. 

As can be seen, Maroons were less frequently declared—and with good 
reason. Their descriptions became more and more discreet and shamefaced. 
It would be an error to believe that their number decreased simply because 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 167 

the announcements decreased. Let us specify dates. Until 1791, the number 
of fugitive-slave announcements was always very high. From the time of the 
general revolt in the provinces of the North and the August slave uprisings* 
the colonists tended to refrain from these announcements. Some of them had 
lost all their work gangs in desertion. It was no longer a question of declaring 
flights from some or other plantation. No longer circumscribed by individual 
infractions and displays* the problem of desertions was general in scope, 
linked to a broad solution. 

Thus the colonists shied away from the expensive and ineffective prac¬ 
tice of advertising runaways. An organ like the Journal politique de Saint- 
Domingue, of 1792, carried a total of three fugitive notices and two reports 
about a slave boy and slave girl, both “strayed.” The same journal, on the 
other hand, is full of daily reports of troop actions against armed slaves in 
desertion and always ready for action. 

From that time on, colonists who had lost the habit of publicizing deser¬ 
tions definitely gave up the idea, even refusing to fulfill their obligation, speci¬ 
fied and renewed from 1789 through 1792, to “forward without delay a 
report on slaves in marronage, including age, descriptions, brands and periods 
o! absence from domicile and plantation.” 72 The administration was becom¬ 
ing concerned. Since 1789, the Provincial Assembly of the North had alerted 
districts, committees, and area commandants to keep informed on the alarm¬ 
ing increase of Maroons. These statistics on the extent of losses held no 
interest for the colonists. They were, perhaps, beginning to understand that 
the fat was in the fire and that statistics were now but a vain exercise. * . . 

At any rate, year by year analyses of announcements fait for various 
reasons to reflect the actual increase in marronage—at least in any reliable 

The notices mention not only slaves whose desertions were declared by 
their masters and the small number recaptured as a result of the advertise¬ 
ments, but also the rather more numerous slaves who unluckily had been 
arrested, finding themselves in jail or for sale as unclaimed, without ever 
having been previously the subject of public announcements of runaway 
Maroons, The lists of unfortunate Maroons caught, arrested, taken to jail, 
or put up for sale as unclaimed were enormous—often even more important 
than those of runaway slaves declared by the owners. 

Should it be hastily concluded from this that a large percentage of Ma¬ 
roons were recaptured, a fact which would serve to lessen if not invalidate 
the adequacy of the announcements as indicators of progression in marron¬ 
age? Hardly a reasonable point. 

Once again the most evident fact is that few masters resorted to announce¬ 
ments for declaring their losses. Further, there is no indication that the ma¬ 
jority of Maroons were retaken. If, to repeat, it is noted that frequently the 
lists of the captured were longer than the lists of those fled to marronage, it 


can only mean that comparison was with flights declared, not with real losses 
and total desertions to marronage. Further, one particularly odd fact must be 
kept in mind. Descriptions of slaves in jail or on sale as unclaimed are but a 
minute percentage compared with the descriptions (name, height, age, sex, 
nation, and so on) of slaves declared as fugitives. Information supplied about 
the captured slaves specified that they were “picked up in the Spanish sector/* 
"brought back from the Spanish area/ 1 “arrested by the police/ 1 seized at 
such and such a place, taken to jail > . . These were, of course, Maroons, but 
rarely those declared by their masters and described in press announcements. 
More often than not, the descriptions were absolutely new ones, referring to 
undeclared Maroons but nevertheless Maroons seized in flight and brought 
back in chains. What is the conclusion to be drawn? 

If the percentage of Maroons declared and captured was particularly small, 
it follows, in light of this unequivocal statement and from that ratio of cap¬ 
tures, that the mass of Maroons arrested without ever having been declared 
permits, in logical comparison, the supposition of an unsuspected, extraordi* 
nary, irreversible pattern. 

We should, however, guard against tripping down the incline of too- 
convenient conclusions. In any case, the fact that so many undeclared fugi¬ 
tives might have been arrested, that it might also have been possible to count 
so many acknowledged Maroons still at liberty, with even more certitude 
lends importance to the descriptions as indices for revealing the year-by-year 
development of marronage. 

In these lists wc have made no attempt to separate acknowledged Maroons 
from Maroons seized after having been declared, or Maroons picked up in 
the absence of previous announcement. All were at one and the same time 
guilty of being fugitives, and it is this development we are attempting to trace 
by means of the suggestive information the descriptions supply, without con¬ 
sidering so hazardous an undertaking as to organize them by groups—on the 
one hand Maroons lost, on the other, Maroons recaptured. And were we to 
succeed in grouping recaptured Maroons/ 3 wc could not as a consequence 
know the number of slaves who became Maroons. In short, we must be con¬ 
tent with the already precious light provided by the descriptions without 
trying to find therein the key to every unknown. 

There are fewer fugitive slave announcements in 1764 or in 1765. The 
press was then in its early beginnings. Not only were the colonists still un¬ 
familiar with this practice, but also the gazettes were less developed and thus 
reserved much less space for these notices than later when these journals ran 
supplements or parallel editions with supplements and various advertisements 
simultaneously at Cap and at Port-au-Prince, not to mention special journals 
such as La Gazette des Caves t VOhservateur Coloniale, or Les Avis du Cap. 

This increase in advertising may have been due to the rather active in¬ 
terest management focused on the income from this source, editorial activity 
varying according to whether headed by Monceaux, dc Marie, Bourdon, Du- 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 169 

buisson, Gattereau, or Charles Mozard* Besides, the absence of or difficulties 
with communication between regions must not be overlooked. It was only in 
1781 that the Caycs-Port-au-Prince and Cayes-Cap linkage was assured by 
two couriers/ 4 From that date, the announcement reads: “Response Cayes to 
Port-au-Prince is possible within eight days instead of thirteen, from Les 
Cayes to Cap in seventeen days instead of a month*” 

It was also in 1781—to cite only the southern region—that more or less 
regular connections were established with Tiburon, Cotcaux, Dama-Marie, 
Nipes, Miragodne, Pctit-Goave, Leogane, and Jacmel, „ . * Yet, on the other 
hand, complete percentages for annual slave importations or even the per¬ 
centages of slave births and deaths that would support statistically reliable 
conclusions about this comparative increase in marronage are tacking* Yet it 
is true that the multiplicity of restrictions and roadblocks, the increasing se¬ 
verity in the surveillance and control of work gangs and in “disciplining” 
slaves, the renewal of slave raids, and other facts of marronage, the increas¬ 
ingly massive desertions of new blacks, the increased malaise observable in 
the colony—together these revelatory indices undoubtedly betray progressive 
intensification in marronage during the last years of colonization. One can 
scarcely fail to recognize this* 

Doubtless the situation varied from parish to parish, from one work gang 
to another, but, so far as marronage is concerned, the reality is that desertions 
increased at an alarming rate. Many announcements make this dear. At the 
time of sales or imminent departure, the colonist was resigned to openly 
publicizing his distress once and for all: 

“Citizen Vaisse, resident of Grand Boucand gives notice that his slaves are 
all in insurrection*” 

. , . “Citizen Moreau offers for sale his remaining slaves*” 

[A resident of Plaisance advises that] “his land and his slaves have not 
been affected by the insurrection,” [but he desires] “an associate with some 
slave property*” 75 

Sorties against slaves were multiplied, as aU eligible men from the par¬ 
ishes were called to arms* 

“For our own safety it is time that we accurately determine the number 
of desertions,” [declares a colonist who again proposes to the intermediary 
commission to organize a mandated census establishing] “the number of 
slaves before the revolt, the number returned to the plantations, dead or 
absent, the names, age, sex of the remaining slaves*” 70 

Mr, Dumas goes a step further. He regards the black domestics as the 
real sustenance of this spirit of rebellion and proposes to banish them all to 
the fields, replacing them with whites or with hired freedmen, 

“Who,” he cries before the Assembly, “who overhears our conversations, 
who is it that has spied upon our every move? The house slaves* Who has 


infused the others with that spirit of revolt which has suddenly erupted in 
the northern province? The house slaves. They are the most d angerous ”” 

In 1791 a large number of Maroons, some 4600 are announced in the 
press, the largest number ever carried thus. However, it can be noted that 
after the revolt in the northern parishes the word “slave” is replaced by a 
somewhat more obscure term. From the distant past of the Spartan serfs, the 
word helot is resurrected: “Yesterday, Wednesday, the execution of six 
Helots took place in a Spectacle that should strike fear in the audacious 
[blacks] of all kinds, ,. . TB 

To sum up, as before, after the American war, in 1789, in 1790 as in 
1791 on the eve of the general revolt, in spite of the chance metaphors found 
here and there, fugitive-slave announcements numbered in the thousands. It 
was only beginning in 1793 that they disappeared almost completely due to 
the circumstances and reasons already indicated. 

At that time the administration rather timidly again proposed the com¬ 
piling of statistics on runaway slaves. It would have been wise to determine 
the real extent of these flights so carefully concealed by the colonists. But 
the authorities continued to be afraid of such statistics, afraid to discover the 
actual increase in the class of freedmen, or to declare it. We will describe this 
ostrichlike behavior—this fear of making known the growth of mar ran age 
and the rebellion which was spreading so rapidly. To be kept in mind is the 
figure declared by the bourgeois representatives of the French slave ports 
(viltes de Commerce et tes Colonies ninnies) shocked by the new disaster 
affecting Saint-Domingue, Their petition to the National Assembly demanded 
urgent and indispensable aid: 

10 ships of 200 to 300 tons for the West and the North loaded with flour, 
wine, biscuits, vegetables, ironwork, coarse linen, 4000 troops, 600 workers, 
an advance of 120 millions for rebuilding plantations, villages and bumed-out 
warehouses, 10,000 mules and horned animals, 200,000 agricultural tools and 
12,000 Negroes, * , 

Even admitting that desertions had fallen off at the approach of the revo¬ 
lution, which was far from the case, such an ephemeral pause would not in 
the least have weakened the spirit of the rebellion. Would not a drop from 
the high point of fugitive slave flights serve to indicate that the slaves w r ere 
becoming more and more aware of the approaching end? If the storm was 
about to burst, if the promise of a liberating dawn was already outlined against 
Saint-Domingue skies, would not the normal psychological reaction of this 
moment have been to await the opportunity for a collective salvation instead 
of attempting the risky individual escape scarcely facilitated by the nightly 
house searches from work gang to work gang increasingly in vogue in the 
North, for example? Might not the watchword have been for the slave to lull 
any suspicion on the part of the masters by observing a well-calculated strict 
submission before striking in a body, once and for all? It is useless diversion 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 171 

to speculate on the evolution of marronage, hidden or not. All during the 
years approaching the end of the colonial period, there was, clearly and in¬ 
contestably, an upward spiraling in the incidence of slave flights. 

It is time now to return after the digression to the physiological condition 
of the slave as revealed to us in announcements of runaways, captures and 
sales of unclaimed slaves. If among the slaves held in jail or those unclaimed 
strays up for public sale there appeared many gasping, worn-out, perhaps 
starving Maroons, it must not be forgotten that these were recaptured after 
long chase or encounters with the police, slaves who, in the expectation of 
liberty, had already experienced the effects of great privation as Maroons. 

As for Maroons still at large, the masters who declared these flights made 
more mention of Negroes “of stout build with sound constitution” or “well- 
built with good calves” than they did of sick and puny slaves. Bom to Bantu 
or Guinean climate, agricultural and pastoral people par excellence, the 
Africans were endowed with extraordinary resistance. That so many should 
have survived the crossing by slave ship—fatalities were only 15 to 25 per¬ 
cent—or the hellish regimen of slavery, expending therein an average of some 
ten to fifteen years in daily labor before becoming completely worn out, is 
solid evidence of a race possessing exceptional courage and unquestionable 
endurance. The statistics bear this out. Nevertheless slaves were frequently 
afflicted with common maladies which can be grouped as follows: natural in¬ 
firmities, common illnesses, effects of hunger and epidemics, scars from work- 
related accidents, scars from fighting during marronage, scars from whipping, 
and other cruelties of slavery. 

Among the natural infirmities were some cases of deafness, blindness, and 
mental derangement: 

—A slave woman apparently crazy, leading a saddled and bridled horse; 

—Jean-Pierre, a creole forty years old and blind, arrested in the Spanish sec¬ 
tor with Angel ique, forty-five, a Nago, very red and bearing the marks of her 
country; 8 ® 

—A blind Negro “good for the wheel”; 

~A Negro “blind in the right eye”; 

—A Negro “covered with few c volans 
—Victoire, a Sosso, “suffering from leprosy”; 81 

—lean a Bedou, creole slave from Maribaroux “mentally off, nearsighted”; 82 
—A Mondongo woman, bearing no brand, “mentally deranged,” 83 another of 
whom it was said that she had a “deranged mind"; 

—“A mute, toothless slave, very nimble"; 

—Another with a “pronounced stammer.” 

We know that with respect to slaves with mental afflictions, or those who 
were deaf mutes and whom the slave merchants had managed to “slip by” in 
a group, the former were obligated to reimburse the purchaser the price even 

* Hives. 


after the sale had been completed. It is certain that many of the blind, deal 
or insane acknowledged in the descriptions were slaves who became that way 
as a result of accidents or inability to endure slavery or to withstand nostalgia. 
Also to be noted are slaves afflicted by illnesses such as hernias, foot crabs, 
sores, yaws, and venereal diseases. We add to this old age and pregnancy 
which are conditions, not illnesses: 

Anna, fifty-two years of age with graying hair and seamed face, , , , a 
male with blueish skin, the tip of one car eaten by worms, has chancre of the 
nose and a large ulcer, , , , a male almost toothless, knees distended, , . , A 
male with only two teeth, , , . M a mangy female with an enlarged navel full 
of mange and chtggers, , . . a male with ulcers on his right leg; another, 
round-shouldered, shortsighted with fleshy ears, , . . a one-eyed, bowlcggcd 
male, the eye half out of the socket is covered with a cataract, yaws on the 
hips, thin, swollen feet with foot yaws (crabes aux pteds) , , . Zamor, mulatto 
Indian, a drunkard, infected with yaws, few teeth, entire body tumid, , . . a 
driver w'ith thin legs completely covered with sores, w f alks like a slowpoke, 
finds walking painful* crooked mouth, thin and sickly . , . an African creole 
and a Senegalese, both old and broken , • . a male with a gray beard and 
doddering head , . , Laurent, an old creole Negro afflicted with hernia , , , a 
mule with a large hernia, another with very large testicles . . , Charles, creole 
black with his natural part half-wasted; another always wears pantaloons, no 
doubt to hide his half-eaien-away testicles , , , a male wearing a bandage for 
hernia , , * Marie, six months pregnant wearing a simple iron collar . , , 
Colette, a Nago, pregnant , , . a very recently arrived female escaped with a 
breasting baby probably bom aboard a slave ship... 

Finally let us add the rare case of a slave turned maroon after a suicide 

Jean Pierre, creole from Port-au-Paix f twenty-two years old, horribly dis¬ 
figured under the chin, in the mouth and lips which are split in two by a large, 
very serious wound from a three-shot pistol which he fired one year ago in a 
suicide attempt; became a maroon immediately after the healing of his 
wound,® 0 

The effects of hunger and epidemics arc also current, especially smallpox 
scars. Feet or body “swollen,” “thin,” “very thin,” “in bad condition,” 
“broken dow r n and without splint” arc just so many indications already noted 
that betray the effects of inadequate diet, the visible signs of hunger. 

Of all epidemics, traces of smallpox arc the most prominent. When the 
colony is ravaged by an epidemic, the number of slaves described “scarred 
with smallpox” is considerable. Thus, from around 1782 up to about 1786 
and even afterwards, the epidemic scarred the servile population with its 
characteristic pustules. In 1783 there were Maroons w f ho were described as 
“recently having the smallpox,” Moreau dc Saint-Mery w*as about to leave 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 173 

the island and was absorbed in putting his professional affairs in order and 
in liquidating his books, jewelry, and his two domestic servants, a mulatto 
hairdresser and an excellent black cook, aT He noted that the epidemic ended 
in March 1783. Father Gabon gave the date as June 1783. Actually, accord¬ 
ing to the Affiches, it was still active during the last days of 1783 and even at 
the beginning of 1784, with some aggravated recurrences of the ravages of 
measles in 1785 and 1786, 8a Asselin Dcslauriers, resident of Grand Bouean, 
announced that “having just suffered due to smallpox a considerable loss of 
slaves, (he) has for sale twenty-five carreaux of land payable in slaves,”® 8 

We are then in 1783* The General Observations on Maladies in 1784, 
which Mr. Jean Arthaud, physician at Cap, published in 1786 reveals that “in 
May [1784] smallpox began to appear at Cap. It is probably brought in by 
slave ships infested with it.” Another doctor practicing in Port-au-Prince, Dr. 
Joubert de la Motte, says that in 1785 and 1786 “smallpox was still active 
with certain confluences. ♦ , ,” 98 

The epidemic exacted a continuous death toll in the work gangs. Never¬ 
theless it was not a cause of marronage. Those Maroons who carried the scars 
of the disease were already cured. The heads of some of these were “half¬ 
bald due to smallpox.” Once the pustules healed, they could not pass on the 
contagion, but for many months they could carry the characteristic traces 
which, as it were, pockmarked their bodies, especially the face. Hence such 
descriptions as a “negro pock-marked by smallpox,” 81 “greatly scarred by 
pox,” or “pitted by smallpox”—the list is tremendously long. 

The disease was not new to the Africans. They were familiar with it and 
since Africa had known by empirical methods how to cure it. In the Congo, 
at the time of the slave trade, “the remedy, curious as it may seem, consisted 
simply in scarring the forehead lightly and introducing a smalt amount of 
pus taken from a smallpox pustule and mixed with oil.” 82 Once again we must 
defer to the evidence that the bush medicine of the African peoples, stripped 
of incantations and superfluous ritual magic, reveals itself to be very close to 
true medical science. The protection against smallpox as applied by the 
Congo people does not differ substantially from the vaccine to be discovered 
by Jenner only in 1798, 

Meanwhile, in Saint-Domingue colonists concerned about protecting their 
slaves had them innoculated, a procedure introduced to the island by Simeon 
Worlock, a creole from Antigua, the brother-in-law of Daniel Sutton, another 
scientist, who was the source of Jenner’s discovery. 83 

In addition, many ships engaged in the slave trade adopted myriad pre¬ 
cautions to prevent any and all contamination of their cargo by smallpox. 
Even so, an epidemic sometimes did break out during a crossing. There is the 
example of the slave ship that was forced to dawdle Its way with a shipment 
of “blacks newly recovering from smallpox.” The case was not unique. In 
1791, a group of adult males and females, boys and girls was offered for sale 


after having “recently had the smallpox 1 * aboard the vessel Compte de For - 
calqtder out of New Rochelle, arrived from the Gold Coast,** 

The descriptions seldom indicate other endemic diseases such as malig¬ 
nant fevers or tuberculosis. This should not serve as a temptation to declare 
that these illnesses were not common. The Africans were highly skilled in 
taking care of these illnesses by means of miraculous cures derived from the 

There is much evidence of work-related accidents, one-armed males, for 
one example. It is surprising that there were not more women who had lost 
an arm. It is the women who fed the mills, more precisely the grinders, with 
canc stalks, A moment's inattention and an arm might be pulled into the gears 
with the possibility of the whole body being dragged in, unless some alert 
conductor should quickly knock the already-crushed arm free. Also among 
the victims of accidents were those who suffered bums or who had been vic¬ 
tims of various blunders in the mills during the active season or in the carting 
of canc and in the travail of labor. 

Some examples: two large burns on the arms , . , both feet crippled , * , 
scars on the side of the thigh , , . three fingers missing, others crooked , * * 
front teeth broken * , , maimed right wrist . . . foot fractured * . . fingers of 
right hand burned , , , right thumb cut off . , * depression in forehead * * * 
burned hands * * * right inguinal hernia . * right hand maimed * * , thumb 
missing ■ . * scar on nose , * * broken thighbone, poorly set, * , deformed right 
tibia , , * hands scarred by burns , , , two fingers crushed, broken leg . . * 
broken toe .. , eyes very weak ,. . deformed thumb . *, rash covering stomach 
* * * big burn on left breast . . , right index finger cut off . * . one-eyed, finger 
broken . * , extensive wound on back of the hand « , . burn on abdomen . . . 
scarred back , , * scars extending from pit of stomach to navel , . . burn on 
left shoulder , , . right leg crooked , * , many bums on the chest. 

Sometimes a Maroon bore fresh wounds as a result of skirmishes with 
the militia or with dogs hot on his heels at the time of pursuit and capture, 
in the course of w r hich he must have stoutly defended his regained freedom 
before succumbing to wounds often serious or fatal. Follow some examples: 

A black w'oman wounded in the head by a machete blow . . * Barbc, 
creole woman with knife cut on her neck, an infant at her breast , . . Samson, 
with a mutilated left car and a saber cut on his neck . . , a Negro with head 
and arm wounds, arrested at Port-Margot , * . any number of “wrists cut off 1 * 
, * , a Negro w f ounded on his upper right thigh, picked up in the Spanish 
sector . . . still another, having received a machete blow to the head, several in 
the arm and hand, picked up in the Spanish sector , , , a Maroon wounded 
by a blow to the navel, brought back from the Spanish area . . , Phaeton, a 
Congo, thirty years old, captured in the Spanish sector with wounds from 
several saber blows to the head and wrists . . * two new blacks, Soso and 
Poulard, seized in Piton des Flambeaux, both wounded, saber cuts on their 

Physiological Condition of the Maroons 175 

arms . * - males bearing the marks of a machete blow between the shoulder 
blades, on the arm . . . wounded by pistol shot in left buttocks and another 
in the knee, same side. . . . 

Finally, like some long litany of tears and suffering inscribed in the blood 
and on the flesh of the slave* the cut of the whip and the myriad physical cru¬ 
elties of slavery are provided us by the words of the colonists themselves. 
Any commentary would be superfluous. 

Large abscess on the right thigh and whip marks on the shoulders ... a 
white scar low on one leg, feet like a dwarf, wearing an iron collar with a 
long chain, ears cut , . . has neck marks from an iron necklace , . . two fe¬ 
males chained together branded LaBorde, attorney at Cap ... a female wear¬ 
ing a three-pronged collar . . . wearing a collar with an iron mask . . . hole in 
one ear big enough to pass a finger through . . . right ear cut off . . . burn 
marks on the buttocks ... a female hobbled on a short chain ... a male with 
feet in stocks and two chain rings, one car pierced with a big hole ... a 
newly arrived male, his body covered with contusions, recently whipped, 
picked up in Borgne . . . Jean Louis, called Hector, a Congo, cut on his left 
ear, three flteurs de lys on his right shoulder and one on the left ... a Negro 
cross-hatched with whip marks ... a black woman with thighs completely 
scarred by whip lashes 35 . . . scar on the right breast, on the forehead and 
shoulder . , . both ears cut off, wearing an iron necklace with a Jong chain , , . 
scars on the abdomen and belly ... both feet dwarfed ... has deformed fin¬ 
gers and wearing a collar with three prongs . . . large scar on the buttocks .. . 
scars across the spine . . . two ears cut, large burn on the lower abdomen, 
very large hernia . . . wrist wound as result of being chained . . . right ear 
cut off . . , iron collar with chain around the neck , swollen and ill . , . has 
wound over eye also underneath the right arm . . . several head and body 
wounds, swollen left hand, has been struck on the forehead . . . blind in one 
eye, wearing an iron necklace with a long chain . . . tongue and left ear cut 
off, a hole in the nose, can hardly talk, wearing an iron collar. . . . 

There is evidence of frequently fatal wounds and blows, of which gen¬ 
erally the hunted Maroons were victims. For example, the following advertise¬ 
ment is particularly suggestive: 

Slaves in marronage: Philippe, reddish skin, creole from Haul du Trou 
carrying a machete . . . Eustace, reddish, a Miserable, twenty-nine years old, 
five feet four and a half inches tall; well built, coachman and hand-truck man 
. . . Crispin, a Congo, twenty-eight years old. smallpox scars . . . Marguerite, 

I bo, from Mississippi, thirty-five years old, feet ulcerated with chiggers, 
escaped wearing a neck chain, the same day. Eleven Portuguese reward. Mme. 
de Tremais will pay this sum only if the negroes are handed over without any 
wounds or evidence of maltreatment.^ 

It is by no means difficult to imagine the brutality of the clashes during 


the pursuit of Maroons who were frequently armed, and the triumphal re¬ 
prisals. The floggings and blows which the militia brought into the hunt must 
have been practiced on the captured blacks as if to make them pay for the 
brutal fatigue and the long marches in the mountains, through brambled 
thickets or in the dangerous corridors of the faubourgs. Here, for example, is 
the report of a trophy brought back from a manhunt—a little piece of skin 
bearing a brand and taken from the dead body of a Maroon: “There has 
been also turned in to the jail at Saint-Marc a brand disclosing the word 
Andrcau lifted from the chest of a negro killed in the w p oods.”°* 

The ferocity of the militia was coupled with the ferocity of the dogs kept 
by a number of plantations and utilized in manhunts. Macandal, at the time 
of his flight, was recaptured thanks to dogs that had picked up his scent and 
discovered his hiding place. Taken thus, he was given a summary trial and 
broken alive on the wheel. Information about dogs trained to attack Maroons 
may be found in the national archives of Cuba.** In February 1796 William¬ 
son dispatched the chevalier Kerenscotf to the Governor of Cuba for the 
purpose of acquiring “two hundred hunting dogs for use in wiping out the 
negro maroons who were infesting certain areas in the south of Saint- 

In the Warsaw Archives, in the files of the Polish Legion there is a re¬ 
port 00 by 2nd Lt Weygcll (file Dabrowski No. 9) from which the author has 
extracted essential details and which says in part: 

Three days ago two hundred dogs w^cre brought here. , * , We expect an¬ 
other 400 tomorrow. * , ( They [Spanish specialists hired to train dogs] train 
them, turn them loose on five negroes whom the dogs ferociously tear apart 
and devour.,, * 

The year is 1802 and the butcheries continued to the point of becoming real 
circus spectacles for the amusement of the sadistic Rochambeau. 10 * 


Height, Age, Sex 

THE HEIGHT of the Maroons ranged from that of a thrce-foot-four-inch 
dwarf—a Nago with reddish skin and hair—to a six-foot Congo arrested in 
Dondon, property of one Mr. David, who enjoyed the luxury of having this 
“Goliath” in his service. 101 In general, the slave was short, which in colonial 
terms meant about five feet in height. There was a fairly large number of 
slaves who were two or three inches taller than the five-foot average, but 
rarely did height exceed five feet five or six inches. This was true of the 
Nagos, Hausas, Aradas, Mozambiques, Congos, Minas, and Poulards. The 
Senegalese and Bambaras were the tallest—many of them being well above 
the average. 

The descriptions examined do not permit the characterization of any 
given “nation” as tall or short. These descriptions are taken from specific 
cases representing only slaves of ail origins who choose to be Maroons. They 
do show, however, that the Congos, who were numerically dominant at the 
end of the colonial period, were generally small—five feet to five feet three 
inches—compared to the Senegalese, the Bambaras or even the Mozambiques, 
the Yolofs and the Quiambas, the tallest and best built of the Africans in 
Saint-Domingue according to Malcnfant, who attributes to them “a height 
varying from five feet five to five feet ten inches.” Anthropometry as a field 
of study is still in its infancy in Haiti, and for this reason we will tread lightly 
the terrain of comparisons. With respect to the earliest inhabitants of the 
island, historians arc in agreement that the Siboney or Taino, despite their 
diet of seafood rich in phosphates, were “very short.” 102 With certain excep¬ 
tions, the Africans arriving in Saint-Domingue did not exceed an average of 
1.55 meters, less than the average for contemporary man, which is 1.65 
meters and much less than the 1.79 of the contemporary Haitian, 92.S per¬ 
cent of whom are above the average,* 

For the height of today’s Haitian we draw upon the “personal conclu¬ 
sions” of our friend Dr. J. B. Romain, Dean of the Haitian Faculty of 
Ethnology, based on a sampling of some 1730 individuals. 103 There is no 
doubt that after liberation succeeding generations of the transplanted African 
grew taller. 

The ages indicated vary from breast-feeding babies carried into marronage 



by their parents to a fairly large number of old men brought back from the 
Spanish sector, arrested in town or offered in sates of unclaimed slaves. 

A few examples will better illustrate the point; a Spanish mulatto, Frances 
Martin, bearing the brand of Mr. Hudicourt, fifty-three years old . , . Alexis 
from the plantation of Mr. Mathon de Brolte aux Baradaires, sixty years old 
. . , Babe, an Arada, property of a free Negro, Grosie, fifty-five years of age 
. . , Lisette, a black of seventy , . . Lafortune, a male also seventy praised by 
his master as a sailor on the Dauphin and described as having '‘white hair 
and beard” * , , “the Congo Andre, property of colonist Hamilet of Perches, 
at least eighty years old,” 104 This Andrd “troubled with a hernia” bowed by 
the weight of years, all his fingers and toes deformed, was perhaps the dean 
of Maroons, Brought into the country when a child, as a bent old man he 
married Tclemaque and in October 1783 took leave, machete in hand, ready 
to defend his liberty and his remaining years. 

At the same time and in contrast there are descriptions of runaway 
mothers who decided to be Maroons taking with them their very young chil¬ 
dren or babies still nursing at the breast. One example is Marie, an Arada of 
thirty-eight years, and her daughter Marie, seventeen, both described as beau¬ 
tifully built. The mother took her two other children, one two years old, the 
other four. There is Blandine, a Miserable of thirty-five years, and her daugh¬ 
ter Adelaide, who together ran away to freedom. The long, long list continues 
with babies of every age—even some born aboard slave ships whose mothers 
attempted to rescue them from slavery, carrying them off into marronage from 
the very moment of arrival in port. 

Turning again to old men, we find Marie-Fran 9 oise, an Arada, and 
Cupidon, a Congo, both sixty-five. There were others not quite so old as 
Anna, a Mesurade; Jean, an Ibo; Marie-Madeleine, Bambara; Agatha, Congo; 
Alert, a Mondongo; Verite, a Congo; Jean-Baptiste, Ibo; Christophc, a Creole; 
and Joseph known as Chouchou, all of whom were between fifty and sixty 
years of age. There were even some who were seventy—Lisette, a Ouanvonne, 
or Frances, a Congo, or several other males and females about to become 

There are examples embracing the extremes of old age and infancy. The 
majority of the fugitives were in the age bracket seventeen to thirty-five— 
in effect these were people at the height of their physical powers whom slavery 
had not yet ruined physically and morally. Moreover, these were the ones 
whom the colonists sought out for hard labor, precisely those not resigned to 
their sad lot, or those desirous of the good things in life, amorous adven¬ 
tures, the pleasures of their age, like the Mesurade named Cambrouet, the 
property and coachman of Mr. Lines of Cap. He was, at twenty-four, five 
feet one, stocky and bowlegged; he took off with his banza, a type of four- 
stringed African violin. He is described as “a great ban2a player, singer, 
cajoler, running the dances at all the plantations.” This type of frivolous 
absenteeism runs almost parallel with the increased number of slaves in the 

Height, Age, Sex 179 

prime of life who chose to make their move for liberty for no other reason 
than that they were seized with a hunger for it and not, like that songster, 
obsessed simply with thoughts of partying and “calmda” dancing. 

The percentage of those between forty and fifty years of age is smaller* 
These arc worn-out slaves whom the owners were about to resell or to neglect 
altogether, if they did not accord them an unofficial freedom (liberty de 
savanne ) without benefit of a personal garden, by this means getting rid of 
unproductive arms and mouths* For these people, worn out on the job and 
prematurely aged, there awaited but declining years full of privations, ill 
health, and misery. 

There was a considerable number of boys and girls from eight to sixteen 
years. Doubtless, for these young people there was more opportunity for 
escape. Often they were house-servants sent out “on commission,” placed 
more or less outside the rigid code of the work gangs and the drivers* rod, 
enjoying thus a kind of liberty. It is not surprising that, at an age when life 
was just beginning, these adolescents or near adolescents, old enough to 
experience the horror of slavery, should have in great number responded to 
the call of the open road. For instance: Rosette and Mars, both creoles, ten 
years old ... an Ibo, L’Ameriquc; Jean-Pierre Belaly, Mandingo; and another 
Rosette, creole; Henri, a creole, and a newly arrived Congo, Azar, were 
from twelve to fourteen years of age . . , Joseph, a creole; Elizabeth, a Soso; 
a Congo, Silvain * , . the Mossondy Janvier , . . Jean-Baptiste and Cupidon; 
Etienne, a mulatto from Cap; Jacques, a Miserable and Lindor, a Congo, 
were all between fifteen and sixteen. In their innocent anguish, they longed 
for a tranquil valley where, flitting free and joyously, birds sang to the passing 
wind and newly blossomed flowers. Perhaps there was in this fantasy the 
image, however imprecise, of the great bliss of being free. . . . 

Was it not toward the gleam of such good fortune that these tired, broken- 
down old people, unresigned to dying while yet in chains, raised their emaci¬ 
ated arms? With a heavy heart wc can imagine their pathetic pilgrimage to¬ 
ward the Spanish sector or in search of secure hiding places, on dusty roads, 
along difficult trails squeezed between ravines, in sun and rain, through 
moonless nights, stomachs empty, feet mangled by rocks or torn by brambles 
—stumbling, pulling themselves up weary, exhausted but never despairing of 
pulling their old, mutilated bodies through to freedom. Their last thoughts 
as they stumbled and fell for the last time must have taken them back to 
Africa where graying hair and beard bestowed the right to respect and ad¬ 
miration. There, the patriarch was the first to cat and to enjoy the choice 
parts of the gazelle. And at those traditional meetings, when the ancients sat 
in judgment on affronts to the sacred traditions, his people on bended knees 
would receive his blessing of, trembling, his malediction or—as was his right 
to administer even to adults of the family—the lash of his stick. How heavy 
with suffering must have been the drama of these old men, become fugitives 


for freedom, with their gray hair, shaking heads, and faltering steps, in the 
twilight of so cruel, so abominable a life! 

We can follow step by step the tragic destiny of one of these, Colin, age 
sixty-five, a Nago, with all of his fingers deformed, the property of Mmc. 
Rouanct, He fled Port-Margot, was arrested at Limbe in October 1784. His 
owner learned of this but decided not to reclaim this useless mouth* Colin 
was but a shadow of the robust man he once was during his lifelong service 
to Mmc* Rouanet, She preferred he be relegated to the scrap heap. Actually, 
he appears again in December 1784 in a sale of strays at the royal seat of 
Cap. 100 He would die of starvation without ever having glimpsed that golden 
liberty which he had struggled to attain. Meeting his end the same way was 
Joseph, between sixty-six and seventy years of age, slightly deaf, very thin and 
weak, fugitive from the Lombard plantation at Caracol, picked up at Grand- 
Bassin and taken to jail at Cap. 106 And so many others, . , , 

With respect to sex, the data reveal that many more men than women 
became Maroons. The reverse would have been surprising given that the 
percentage of men brought in by the slave traders was always twice that for 
females. Despite this disproportionate scale, the number of women in flight 
was far from being a negligible quantity. It was on the order of 15 to 20 
percent, a considerable amount considering the number of women imported 
from Africa and considering the greater possibilities they had through sexual 
activity or liaisons, to suffer less the constraints of slavery or the tragedy of 
loneliness. This being the case, it is surprising to find so few women in the 
little independent socialist state established by the Maroon leader, Santiague, 
in the Bahoruco mountains. 107 

But, when it is the group that becomes fugitive, women were present in 
numbers. 109 The fugitive group tried to secure the company of women, useful 
in the grinding of millet and in so many domestic chores. Maroon bands, 
when on foray, make a special effort to find a few women, domestics or field 
workers, whom they could carry off. It must be added that the role of 
women was as important in marronage as in colonial life in general, as it 
would be in the course of the struggle for liberty and equality prior to align¬ 
ing the boundless courage of the Mary Jeans 100 for the epic of Independence. 

Maroon Names 

INEVITABLY, MAROON NAMES were, for the most part, slave names, 
and here again the descriptions arc of great interest. The slaves arrived from 
Africa bearing the name given them by their people. Names like Comba, 
Ouda, Limb a, Acouba, Ayouba, Abore, Hyohyo, Agouya, Ouagaou, Cocog- 
niou, Sambou, Aoua, Dccoua, Simbe, Aguinou, Apia, Divia, and others. 1 in 
Once in servitude in Saint-Domingue, they were branded by an owner with 
an identifying stamp—the initials or the name of the plantation—indicating 
to whom he or she belonged and an address. Whether or not they were bap¬ 
tized, they were given Christian names or ordinary colonial names which 
they could carry for the rest of their lives. In rare instances slaves baptized 
as adults changed their names as for example Mercury, whom his master. 
Father Michel, priest at Fort-Dauphin, renamed Jean Louis. 

The system of slave naming, a very common colonial practice, indicates 
more than ten different ways of choosing a slave name. There were names 
of saints, names from the calendar, names descriptive of character or special 
traits, names related to geography, history, or mythology, invented names or 
whimsical ones, structured first names, diminutives, and, finally, creole or 
African names. Added to this name—and customarily so among the slaves 
themselves—were African appellations that certain masters adopted for 
the purpose of more exact identification such as “the Congo negress Diane, 
known in her own tongue as Ougan-Daga.” . . . The Congos Azor, Nicaise, 
and Narcisse, “known in their own countries as Pambou, Sinchi and Zinga 
. . . the negro named Matta in his own land, known here as Magloire; a 
Congo male named l’Esperance or Saint Laurent and known by his Guinea 
name, Pauban. . . .” 

Equally common, characteristic surnames would complement colonial 
names not sufficiently indicative for distinguishing between slaves with the 
same name, often from the same plantation. Thus, Caesar called Piedcourt 
[Short-Foot]; Joseph surnamed Landormi; Brutus l’Eveille [the awakened 
one] or Jean a Bedou (Bcdou’s son]; Magdeleine a Coudognan (Coudog- 
nan’s wife); Baptiste a Nanette and Baptiste a Fancbon (the reference is to 
the mother); Petit-Louis, grande Agnes, Mama Joseph, Vieitle Roze and, 
finally, Jean Congo, Jean Bambara, Marie Congo (to distinguish her from 
other Maries of the plantation or district who might be Arada, Hausa, 
Thiamba or creoles. 



It was also customary to add a descriptive to the names of mothers such 
as *Man Louis," or *‘Man Jacques,” by which they were identified with their 
firstborn. There was also the customary use of diminutives, usually for house 
slaves, where the name itself was lacking in the characteristic domestic and 
affectionate flavor, for example, Vanottc, Bibiane, Rosette, Lisctte. 

The colonial name of the slave was a first name, very rarely was it at¬ 
tached to a surname. The most commonly used names were C£sar, Zaire and 
Sans Quarticr, These hitter two were frequently found after 1776, Others were 
Jcan-Baptistc, Zabeth, Toussaint, Telemaque, Nanette, Azor, Rose, Ursule, 
L6vcill£, Marianne, and the long scries of compound Marie ant! Jean names— 
Marie-Jeanne, Marie-Magdaleinc, Marie-Louise, Marie-Victoirc, Marie-Picnre, 
Marie-Joseph, Marie-CIairc, Marie-Toulouze, Marie-Agnes, Marie-Goton, 
Anne-Marie, Marie-Catherine, Marie-Noelle, Marie-Agn£s, Marie-Marthe, 
Marie-Ang£liquc, Marigracc; Jcan-Baptistc, Jcan-Picrre, Jean-Fran^ois, Jean- 
Paul, Jean-Marie, Jean-Joseph, Jean-Louis, 

Sometimes men were given female names and vice versa. Thus we find 
males baptized Rosette, Sara, Pierrette, or women as Ulysse, Telemaque or 
George, Such are the broad observations deriving from the descriptions. Here 
for the sake of emphasis are slave names grouped, as far as possible, accord¬ 
ing to the choice, caprice, or fantasy of the master. 

Popular Christian Names 

Pierre, Jean, Charles, Thomas, Jacques, Louis, Joseph, Francois, Paul, 
Etienne, Michel, Phillipe, Henri, Marie, Julie, Rose* Jeanne, Gabrielle, Gene¬ 
vieve, Cecilc, Suzanne, Rcinc, Marianne, Pauline, Florence, Veronique, 
Picrrc-Paul, Ang61tque, Add to this group the series of names derived from 
Dieu [God]: Dicudonne [God's Gift], Dicufait [Work of God], Dicujuste 
[Just God], Dicuseul [One God], Dieumcrci 112 [Thanks to God], Mcrci- 
dieu [God's Grace], and from the saints: Saint-Jean, Saint-Pierre, Saint- 
Louis, Saint-Marc. . .. 

Names Derived from the Calendar 

Janvier, Fevrier, Mars, Avril, Mai, Juin, Juillet, Aoiit, Octobre, Novcm- 
bre, Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vcndredi, Samedi, Dimanehe, Noel, 
Toussaint, Printemps, 

Names Taken from Geography 

Senegal, Poitou, Luxembourg, Tourangeau, Saint-Marc, Saintongc, Port- 
au-Prince, Bourguignon, Dauphin^, Parisicn, Rouen, Carthagene, Charles 
Grand-Goave, Lagaronnc, Languedoc, Cap, Maur, Thyamba, LaRochclle, 
Bengale, Anjou, Hollandais, Bayonne, Jacniei, Cui-de-Sac, Sud-Ouest, 
PAm^rique, TAfricain, Congo, Nago, Acra, Marseille. 

Maroon Names 183 

Designations Based on Character or Special Traits* 

Promise, La Saute [Healthy], La Guerre, Temeraire [Bold], Sansraison 
[Dumb], Sans Chagrin [Never Sad], La Tortue [Slowpoke], Perd-du-temps 
[Time-Waster], Alerte, Habile [Skillful], Sans-Fa?on [Simple], La Gran¬ 
deur, Machoquet [Careless], La Douceur [Gentle], La Terreur, L’Eveille 
[Wide-Awake], Libertin, Bistoury [the Knife], Desiree, Victoire, Vidargent 
[Energetic], Bienvenu [Welcome], Landormi [Sleepyhead), Papillon [But¬ 
terfly], Sans Souci [Frivolous], Bellefaee, Lambin [Slowpoke], Lajoie, La 
Deroute [Disorderly], Razoir, Doucement [Gentle], Divertissant [Amus¬ 
ing]. Lenfcr [Hellish], Brisefer [Destructive], Vigilant, Tranquille, 113 
Catin 11 * [Immoral], Fidelle, Penitent, Brouctte [Wheelbarrow], Tambour 
[Drum], Satyre, Sans Ouarticr [Friendless], Prudence, Chaudiere [Boiler], 
Bellamour, Heurcuse [Happy], Grace, Lamour, Reinette [Little Queen], 
Bonne [Upright], Content, Confiance (Confident], Langue [Mouthy], 
Demon, Beau front, Bellhumeur [Good Humored], Poltron [Timid], Poli 
[Smooth], Bonaventure, Polites, Felicite, Charitable, Celeste, Controle. 

Fantasy Names 

Louis d'Or [Golden Louis], Prince-noir [Black Prince], Papa, Pret it 
boire [Lush], Tu me Quittcras [You will leave me], Trop Cher [Too Ex¬ 
pensive], Pistachc [Pistachio], Quatre Cents Francs [400 Francs], Tempete, 
Mirleton [The Flute], Bon gout [Good Taste], Bergamote [Sweet Man], 
Longitude, Compas, Equerrc [The Square], Jasmin, Sonnet, Plumcau 
[Feather Duster], Toutmonbicn [All my wealth], Sansnom 11 * Anisette, 
Faveur, Dada [Hobby Horse], Tu m’aideras [You will help me] [Congo 
slave belonging to one Michel Bredy, 11 ' 5 free black]. Father de Pradines, 
priest at Port-au-Prince in 1769 had occasion to advertise that three of his 
Mondongo slaves—Landormi [Sleepyhead], Lespiegle [Mischievous] and 
Vadcboncocur [Go with Good Heart] had fled in marronage. 

Names jrom History or Mythology 

Thebes, Amphion, Hector, Achille, Apollon, Hercule, Jupiter, Satume, Vul- 
cain, Zephir, Zamor, Ciceron, Charlemagne, Arlequin, Azor, Candide, 
Darius, Celadon, Coridon, Cupidon, Leandrc, Mercure, Mentor, Narcisse, 
Neptune, Ncron, Oreste, Phaeton, Plutus, Pyrrhus, Pom pee, Telemaque, 
Titus, Valere, Massillon, Moliere, Racine, Voltaire, Homere, Juvenal, Chio- 
ris, Polidor, Alzire, Colin, Junon, Agathe, Ariane, Flore, Lucrece, Antoine, 
David, Samson, Brutus, Cirus, Bacchus, Midas, Amadis, Zilia, Dalila, Adonis, 

* Unlike the preceding names fantasy names and those denoting character or special 
traits can seldom if at all be translated to reflect exactly what the master had in mind. 


Diminutives, Surnames and Structured Names 

Margot* Marianne* Suzon, Jeannette, Jcanncton. Lisctte, Zabclh, Pierre- 
Louis, Jean-Claude, Rosette, Vanotte, Fanchon, Nanette, Pierrot, Toni, 
Joute, Rosalie, Pauline, Coueoutc, Lolottc, Clarisse, Charlotte, Marinette, 
Claudine, Paulo, Fanchette, Bibinc, Miranda, Guittc, Babette, Chariot, 
Mirni, Grignotte, Beco, Zulmise, JeannoL 

Creole Sounding Names 

Maude, Pare, Latrembli, Chouquet, Yoyo, Yaya, Coachi, Bouque, Ca- 
brouet, Corossol, Cafe or Coffi, 117 Boiseche, Papa ye, Grandgofit, Patate, 
Callebasse, Yafait, Maringouin, Nangout, Zozo, 118 Calinda, Mabi, Tambour, 
Panzou, Bouqui, Malice,Codio, Jacquot, Baca, Goulou, Petro, Samba, 
Trempe, Grangozier, Zingua, Mouche, Coucouille, Boure, Makaquc, An- 
moue, Mabouya, Cachimbo, Bobotte, Ely, Rada, Coco, Babichonnc, Candio, 
Chat, Gnongnon, Falras, Dodo, Guiquiri, Demare, Tauraubande, Chita. 

African and Islamic Names 

Bari, Thisiman. Tamerlan, Aly, Soliman, Famine, Hay da, Fatima, Alouba, 
Bonga, Bonna, Douaguc, Meloui, Aza, Bezingu, Couacou, Conga, Bossi, 
Maeouba, Goman, Agao, Yaga, Orcan, Fatme, Malta, Petro, Sabadou, 
Jouba, Angouma, Ouata, Mayombe, Aboutou, Diaby, Chila, Ouala, Quimba 
(distortion of Thiamba), Couida, Aquiou. 

Names from the Contraband Trade 

These are the numerous Spanish creole slaves from across the border or 
from Cuba, English slaves, slaves from Curasao and others who might, in 
Saint-Domingue, keep the names they had borne before misfortune in max- 
ronage or in the contraband trade brought them to the colony: Juan, Ouan, 
Pedro, Miguel, Thony, Elysabeth-Jenny, Ovaldo, Manuel, Coffi |for Coffee], 
Williams, Beneditio, Bissinthe (an English creole also speaking Spanish), a 
Maroon at Lcogane in 1777 (property of Mr. Chariot); 120 Jouanes (a Cura¬ 
sao creole), Guillaume Schmit, Couc (for cook), Dick, Misis, Tom, Kern- 
brick, Salvadors. . .. 

We shall see by the slave names and perhaps even more so by freedmciVs 
names how and to what extent these colonial designations were to be per¬ 
petuated in Haitian lineages. 

Most often, the slave, once freed, divested himself of all the names, sur¬ 
names, and double names he bore, African or colonial, to adopt most fre¬ 
quently the name of his former master or else the first name of a while. It 
was especially through the newly liberated slaves that we have held on to 
French colonial names, such license having been forbidden the enfranchised 

Maroon Names 185 

during the entire colonization period, except for certain rather rare cases 
of legitimate birth or, more common, of parental recognition. 

Because of this restriction, slaves, once freed, tended to adopt as family 
names the given names they had borne in slavery, whence the multiplicity 
of first names designating Haitian families. As for the purely African name, 
the newly freed slave dropped it with alacrity. Was he tempted more often 
than not to establish his personality and his new status by presenting himself 
in his new life with a solid French name, more suitable from his point of 
view for marking his elevation and for symbolizing with legitimate vanity 
both satisfaction and prestige? 

Thus, very few African names have survived* We know the name Ba- 
guidi 1 - 1 which is Dahomcan, with a mother branch still extant in Arada coun¬ 
try, It is not certain that the numerous slaves named Couacou in Saint- 
Domingue were at the origin of the family name Coicou, 122 In any case, this 
name is very rare in France, and is never found among colonial names in 
Saint-Dominguc, Neither Is it known for a certainty whether the word dossou 
(male child horn after twins) served to provide the family name Dossous. 

Even the creole names have disappeared. For example: Bouque, Cou- 
couille. Grand gout, Sans-Quartier, Papayer, 123 Palate, Callebasse, which 
were slave names, or again Mabial which became, in popular parlance, a syno¬ 
nym for malice because of the terror generated by leaders bearing this family 
or first name during the Haitian period. 

NOTES, pp. 113-185 

1. Revue d’Histoire des Colonies, No, 135, 3rd trimester 1951, p. 310, 

2. We even find them among the Maroons (Affiches Americatnes of 10 December 
1789, for example, Gazette de Saint-Domingue t 13 March 1791, or again the 
Courier national de Saint-Donringue of 6 March and 31 July 1791, As for Mo- 
zambiques they were present in increasingly important groups from 1773 on. 

3. Robert Cornevin, Histoire de VAfrique, Tome 11, 273. 

4. “Evolution historique dune religion africaine: Voodoo/' Paper presented by 
Lilas Desquiron de Heusch at the Free University of Brussels for the academic 
year 1967-1968. 

5. See Monseigneur CuvelieCs translation in VAncien Royaume du Congo J of the 
chant “He bomba , bafio canga te . . /* cited by Price Mars in Ainsi parla l*otide. 

6. Texts taken from La Tradition Voodoo et le Voodoo hair ten. The interpretations 
of Mars, Maximilien, Dorsainvil, Metraux, Marcelin, and Desquiron differ little 
on this point of view. 

7. “In Haiti in contrast with Brazil there are no cults segregated according to ethnic 
grouping. Voodoo welcomes to its bosom and unifies in a single structure all the 
richness of the different cultures which have nourished it.” 

The statement is by Lilas Desquiron (op. cir. f I) who adds: “The Dahomeans 
gave Voodoo its general framework, its structure: on the other hand the Bantus 
of Central Africa have pulled together (recueilU) this fundamental Impulsion, 
have enriched and transformed it, in short have been the most considerable tribu¬ 
tary of the Dahomean source. 

8. Saint-Mery. I, 55. 

9. It is to the Angolan neighbors of the Congos we owe the habit of considering it 


the most grave insult “to swear on the godmother or mother of a negro’* while 
invoking “the sexual organs*” Saint-Mery, I, 55, 

10. Quiola, in Tanzania, East Africa, a small island presently known as Kiolua. 

11. See $aiat-M£ry, I, 52ff, and Mmc. Rosselline Siguret—“Esclaves ... an quartier 
de Jacmel,” Revtue Frangake d'Histoire d'Outre Mcr t I96S t No. 2, p, 224. 

12. Although the origin of slave ships was usually given, the newspapers often failed 
to indicate the number of captives composing each shipment so that the number 
of slaves declared does not from one year to another correspond to the number 
of hois d'ebtnc imported. These figures may, all the same, reflect in general the 
predominance of one ethnic group or another in the populating of the colony, 

13. Our figures on the number of Maroons will not always be rigorously precise. 
Rather, they will indicate for most of the following years an estimate. We did 
not always have the time necessary to avoid the risks of repeated announcements 
or of omissions of scattered, small news items not under captions usually re¬ 
served for slaves in flight, in jail, or on sale as strays. Whatever the case, our 
estimate will certainly approximate the exact number of Maroons declared each 
year despite the fact that technical difficulties have prevented us from achieving 
by our individual energies the success of a group effort. 

14. First description of an importation of slaves from East Africa. From that time 
Africans from Madagascar and especially those from Mozambique would grow 
in number. S.A.A., 24 July 1773, shipment unloaded the eighteenth of the same 
month. In spite of the difficulties encountered by the slave trade in this region, 
the Gold Coast and the Angola Coast were often rejected in favor of Quiola 
and other slave centers in East Africa. 

15. Guineans and Bantus being equally represented in the listed origin of the ship¬ 
ments, it was necessary in this special case to include their numbers in the list 
of Africans declared. Of the 7965 Africans declared, more than half are listed as 
having come from the Angola coast. 

16. Although the Mozambiques belong to the Bantu group we have listed them sepa¬ 
rately in order to suggest the periodic contribution of the Mozambiques in addi¬ 
tion to the Angolans and the Congos of the same group. 

17. Sierra-Leone. 

18. Of the 202 Africans in this shipment, seven fled into marronage shortly after* 
wards, “In marronage seven newly arrived Mandingo slaves, without brand, a 
part of the sale from the slave ship captured from enemies of the State during 
the early days of last month; they fled the plantation of M. Saint*Marie at Borgne 
during the night hours between the sixteenth and seven lee nth, 11 

19. This cargo is listed as “from the Guinea Coast," but, at the lime of sale, the same 
group is described as "slaves from the Gold Coast.” In the same w r ay, we will 
correct statistics which reflect errors in the locality of certain ports or even of 
particular peoples so as to attribute them to their true groups in keeping with 
the principal objective of this summary table. 

20. A table of slave-ship arrivals for the year 1784 was published in the Affichcs in 
1785. This table indicated eighty-two ships, a more or less identical figure but, 
on the other hand, compared with the 14,767 slaves offered for sale the same 
journal indicates 22,830 slaves traded, 3,578 of whom died during the crossing, 
thus reducing the actual importation of Africans in 1784 to 19,252. With respect 
to the census of Africans sold at Saint-Domingue in 1784, the table is limited to 
Cap and Port-au-Prince and omits the other slave ports—Saint-Marc, JUoganc, 
and so forth. 

21. The same journal for the year in question published the following figures in a 
summary table. Number of ships, 65; number of slaves sold, 21,652, This time 

Notes 187 

it is stated that the total for slaves traded refers to the ports of Port-au-Prince, 
Leogane, Cayes, Saint-Marc and Jacmel, 

22* The sum total of slaves imported in 1786 is 27,648—2,592 at Leogane; 873 at 
Jacmel; 385 at Cayes; 2,014 at Saint-Marc; 12,319 at Cap; and 9,465 at Port-au- 
Prince, A.A., 10 March 1787, 

23* Bryan Edwards gives the figure as 30,839 slaves imported in 1787, An additional 
nine, carried under the caption "other origins, 11 are listed as four Mozam- 
biques, four Gold Coast, one African coast. 

24, For the year 1788 Bryan Edwards cites the number of slaves imported as 29,506. 
At least two cargoes identified as "Angola Coast" came from Mozambique, 

25, Descriptions of slave ships for 1789 take into account arrivals at Cap, at Port- 
au-Prince, les Cayes, Jeremie, Jacmel, Leogane, and Saint-Marc. 

26, The number of slave ships and slaves declared seems quite large. At Cap alone, 
for the period 14 to 19 October of this record year, seventeen slave ships were 

27* These newspapers are to be found in the Moreau de Saint-Miry Library, d£pot 
R, C, du Fonds de la France d’Outre-Mer. 

28, Contraband trading was to continue yet a little longer. During the last brief 
period the supply was to come, for the most part, from the neighboring islands. 
The slave trade would end as it began with relays from nearby islands as with 
the first remote operations before the founding of the West India Company in 

29, The slave trade was abolished by the Convention of 27 July 1793, but still the 
Directory, on 13 March 1799, issued instructions to Blanchot de Verly, com¬ 
mandant at Senegal, to try "to engage the blacks by the lure of liberty, by per¬ 
suasion, and with the promise of a happier fate—or to regard as ransom the 
objects of exchange given as payment for a slave —* The fulsome letter was 
reproduced by Sain toy ant in La colonisation frangaise, I, 335, 

30, It should be noted that "metif, metive," according to Father Labat, referred par¬ 
ticularly to crossbreeding with Indians, the term "mixed blood" being more often 
used for other combinations. 

31, Moreau de Saint-M6ry, I, 89-95. 

32, Stenio Vincent, En posant les julon^ I, pp. 152-153. 

33, There is a long list of creoles from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Curasao, Mississippi, 
and of Spanish-speaking creoles from the eastern part of Saint-Domingue, English, 
creoles from Havana, and so forth. 

34, See Jean Fouchard, Langue et literature des aborigines <FAyti . 

35, In certain parishes creole Africans dominated from the time of the revolution. 
They appeared in the majority in a few work gangs according to plantation in¬ 
ventories which, unfortunately, did not always, it seems, distinguish between 
creoles and creolized slaves admitted to creole ranks after an extended stay in 
the colony* There was a tendency in colonial practice to disregard the African 
origins of old slaves and to identify them with bom creoles* Whatever the case, 
and in spile of this "practice" extended also to some whites long enough in the 
colony to be called Saint-Domingue creole, the conclusions to be drawn from 
%vork-gang inventories provide extremely significant data on the predominance 
of creole slaves at the close of the colonial period* 

36, Frederic Marcelin: We are not freed of the heritage our masters left us and the 
robe of Ness us resting on our shoulders is unfortunately but a weave of cocoa- 
nut fibers." 

I. C. Dorsainvih "As much as 80 percent of the Haitian people are a product 
of miscegenation. In the Haitian type rarely docs one observe in their original 
purity the dominant physical characteristics of the black race which contributes 


in large measure to its formation* For the black race this metissage had already 
begun in that part of the world (Africa)," 

Jacques Stephen Alexis: "African, Latin-American and Haitian in the very 
marrow of my bones* I am the product of several races and civilizations. First 
of all and above all, closer to Africa I am nonetheless heir to the Carib and the 
American Indian by virtue of a secret flow of blood and because of cultures sur¬ 
viving long after their deaths* Similarly, I am in good measure the heir of old 
Europe, of Spain, and especially of France. These last two are evident in my 
thinking, in my emotional actions as undeniably they arc in my sensibilities* , , , 

I relate to the French way of thinking and to French sensibilities and so much 
has France given me I am under obligation to pay back what little I have to 
offer.,. > n 

And finally, should it be necessary, let us add the now classic lesson of 
ethnology: “The notion of ‘pure race’ is an illusion of the last century* Paleon¬ 
tology, genetics, and molecular biology have relegated it to worthlessness. All 
human beings derive from a very small ancestral group of mutants* So-called 
races are only the result of a classification simplified into large groupings of 
microraces which have been in continued evolution since the birth of man* All 
the races we presently identify are destined, like all things pertaining to man, to 
change completely."—R. C* 

37. Some rare brands indicated only a place name. From then on they seem to have 
been useless. For example, a slave is branded “Cul de Sac"; others “Jacmel" or 
"Colon au Cap," in rare instances and only before 1780 creole slaves carried 
only the brand "born in Leog&ne," “born in Cayes," no doubt to indicate that 
they w r ere actually creole born and not creolized slaves admitted to creole ranks, 
as was often the case* 

38* A.A.,2 June 1784. 

39* S r A.A. t 1 February 1783 and 24 April 1791* 

40. A.A*, 30 April 1785. 

41. Nouvelles diverses, No. XLX, 20 May 1789. 

42. Gazette de Saint-Domingue, 22 October 1791. Minutes of the morning meeting 
of 15 September* 

43. Moniteur genera! de la Partie Frangaise de Sainl-Domingue, No* 26, May 1793. 
The proclamation, in Creole, of Polverel and Sonthonax, Let us note here and 
now that the word “Maroon" is used to the end of the colonial period. 

44* Labat, 71* Branding was largely by hot iron but slightly different in Africa 
where it was practiced, just as many “nations'’ still practice in our time excision 
of women, or display distinctive tribal markings on the cheeks, forehead and 
teeth, purple their gums, pierce their nostrils, and so forth. 

45. Gazette de SainbDomingue, 29 January 1791, the case of a pregnant Bassa whom 
her owner, Lapree de Saint-Marc “did not, given her condition, think it wise to 
brand*" Also in A.A., 7 August 1769, "a griffe slave’s brand on the left breast 
illegible because of swollen flesh*" 

46. Very rarely was a dye brand described, for example (5*>t.v4,, 22 January 1774) 
the case of Augustin, a Mandingo slave, “branded with ink, the brand slightly 
worn off." Or, in 1791, of one or two slaves “ink branded.” 

47. Gazette de Saint-Domingite, 12 March 1791, S.A.A., 4 March 1775, and Feuitle 
du Cap, 1791* 

48* SA.A. t 25 February 1784* Slaves on the plantation of the Dominicans carry the 
brand F.P* [Freres Precheurs], We find Maroons with this brand who ran away 
from the mission in Leogane* 

49. It should be noted that branding, especially with the fleur-de-lys, was a common 

Notes 189 

form of punishment* It was used against criminals, no doubt to discourage 

50* The first advertisements beginning with 1764 mention “incised national markings*” 
These were of course the same “marks” that will continue to be noted right to 
the end of the colonial period* 

51. Saint-M6ry, I, 51, 

52, A A., 2 April 1783* 

53* Gazette de Saint-Domingue, 9 February 1791, 

54. For example, we note “a very black Congo” offered for sale. Avis divers et 
Petites Affiches A mericasnes, 23 January 1765, 

55. Rarely, “a light-skinned Guinean woman, thick lips, very broad nose” or “a negro 
who could easily be taken for mulatto,” or that other expression mulatto bazanti 
(brownish mulatto”) used in 1789, 

56. Their beauty was at times described as “Flat nose, beautiful teeth, pretty smiles, 
well-built, firm breasts.” 

57. The grimaud or grimelte type so current today is creole, born of mixed crossings. 

58. Father Dutertre, 11, 495. 

59. There are descriptions of slaves “with hair close cut” (an Arada branded Troti- 
illot) or “hair recently cut dose” (an I bo, in Jeremie), This appears to be a 
colonial practice. As late as 1791 there was the term hair cut en couronne or 
close to the scalp. 

60. SAA., 17 January 1784, 

61. Saint-M6ry, I, p. 53. 

62. The case is described by P. de Vaissiere, p, 194 (Notes historiques de Saint- 
Mery ), It is not claimed that this colonist ate the flesh he bit off, 

63. “A vice that distressed the black women” says Saint-Mery with considerable 

64. A cachimbo is a pipe. This ad is from SAA., 27 February 1781. 

65* See Father Nicolson: Essai sur VHistoire naturelle de Saint-Domingue. The coffee 
plant was brought in from Martinique in 1727. In 1784 (A.A* t 21 January 1784) 
De Bellecombe introduced from the French islands and from Bourbon and India 
“ten mango trees, a vefiver root, sixty seeds of the sago tree, some Moluques (a 
palm tree), fifteen strawberry plants from Manilla, three spiny bamboo plants, 
thirteen mulberry plants from Madagascar, eight camphor tree cuttings, etc.” 

66. A last miracle fruit, the breadfruit, was first brought to the island in 1789, The 
first plants were entrusted to Delia de Villeneuve of Bas-Limbe in August 1788 
(Nouvelles diverses of 31 January 1789)* We do not know when the variety 
known as arbre-v£ritable was introduced, 

67. A A*, 11 September 1784, 

68. At the time of the earthquake of 3 June 1770, the advertisements declared only a 
single case of a Maroon having escaped from prison in Port-au-Prince. 

69. Letter of Marie Labry a propos a storm that had ravaged the Cayes district: 
“We still don't have any garden staples to feed the slaves. We are reduced to 
giving them grain.” See Charles Frost in, “Angevins de modeste condition 6tablis 
a Saint-Domingue,” in Revue Frangaise d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer t T. LVII (1790) 
No. 209, 

70. No. 34 of Thursday 26 April 1792. 

7L Momteur General, 16 November 1792* 

72, Journal de VAssemblec Provinciate de la Partie du Nord de Saint-Domlngue , 
Session of 1 December 1789, 

73, Those in jail, those on sale as strays, those returned to the work gangs on their 
own initiative, those captured in manhunts, etc. We do not have all the data. 

74, 5A.A,, 20 February 1781 and May 1781. 


75. IMA, 16, 18 February, 8 April 1793. 

76. Moniteur Giniral, 16 November 1792. 

77. lbid. t 15 May 1792, Curiously enough in Paris during the same period there 
were associations of house-servants protesting the presence in France of all people 
of color. 

78. Journal du Port-au-Prince t 25 September 1791. 

79. Gazette des Caye j. No. 33, 22 April 1792, 

80. A.A., 24 September 1783. In the sales announcements on one or two occasions 

there was the offer of "a blind slave used to turn the millstone. 11 12 De¬ 

cember 1780. 

81. Leprosy, The cases are quite rare, 

82. S.A>A„, 14 July 1784. 

83. A.A. t 2 August 1775. 

84. To be noted is the multiplicity of descriptions of slaves "with tw r o upper front 
teeth missing." This indication is repeated hundreds of limes. 

85. Another case: “A Congo slave wet nurse, twenty years old with a little boy of 
six months. Has been in the country six months/ 1 A*A. t November 1786. 

86. S*A.A„ 23 June 1784. There are few known cases of this type (unsuccessful 
suicide). As for successful suicides their number, it has already been seen, re¬ 
mains high, especially among the Ibos. 

87* A.A., 14, 17 May, and 18 June 1783* 

88, In SainFDomingue the measles is called rarampion. 

89* A>A rf 1 October 1783* 

90. A.A., 29 April 1786. 

91. The expression gravi verrette has passed into contemporary language in Haiti 
where they still speak of "Salomon's pox" in allusion to the epidemic that 
claimed many victims during the administration of this upright and progressive 
man. The last epidemic occurred in the 20s. At that time the people sang ^Aero¬ 
plane—la t li s&ti Cuba r li poti nouvelle toutes fannies pou vaccin.*' [The aero¬ 
plane came from Cuba bringing the news that every woman must be vaccinated* 1 ]* 

92. Robert Cornevin, Histofre du Congo-Lto, p. 36. 

93* Saint-Mery, I, pp. 250, 522. 

94, Gazette de Saint-Damlngue, 22 January 1791* 

95, Around 1764 "the word was more popularly cicatrisi; after 1780 hachi and tailli" 

96. S.A.A., 19 January 1785. 

97, 15 May 1771. 

98. Documentor j parti la Mistoria de Haiti: items 548 and ff. 

99. According to an interested Saint Domingue collector, some of these papers dis¬ 
appeared during the last war. 

100. Note that following the example of the colonials at the time of their savage 
massacres in the southern parishes freedman used "huge attack dogs to hunt down 
whiles hiding out in the hills and woods/ 1 —Madiou I, 139, Of all the vengeful 
actions these massacres were the most bloody since the freedman were by far 
the majority in such southern parishes as St. Michel, Fond des Negres, Aquin, 
Tiburon, Coteaux Bay net, Cayes, JaemcL * * , Of Rochambeau, General LeClere 
already mortally ill in May 1802 w-rote to the First Consul: "There is no one 
better suited to replace me than General Rochambeau. He is an honorable man, 
an excellent soldier, and he dislikes blacks ., 

101. Another slave, newly arrived* twenty years old, six feet tall, found in Petit Goave 
in February 179 L 

102. The Arawaks were "a bit under average height* seldom exceeding five feet six 
inches.” Daniel Brinton: La Haza Americana * translated by Perry, 223. 

Notes 191 

103, Dr. J, B. Romain, Introduction d Anthropologic physique des Haitiens, Port-au- 
Prince* 1962, p. 117. 

104, 5-A./L, 5 November 1783. According to Moreau de Saint M6ry (I f 522), ‘‘The 
list of octogenarians in every era would be brief , , , and rather more so for 
blacks and mulattoes, . . /’ The freedman Aglon died at 110, Vincent-Olivier at 
120. Marie-Madeleine, an Arada; Helene Dcslc, and Jeanne are centenarians. 
Louis Bonn, a quadroon, died at the age of 101, in Borgne, Among the mulattoes, 
one can cite Thomas Bernard, more than eighty years old or, among the colonists, 
Michel Bouchet, dead at eighty-four in J Uremic, according to Michael Recourt, In 
1768 Marie Savane, a free person, died at Anse-a-Veau at the age of 114, still 
perfectly lucid, and Francois Nicas, a free grilTonne, died the following year at the 
age of 120, survived by a daughter age eighty. At the Convention meeting of 4 
June 1793, Abb^ Grdgoire presented to the assembly, which rose to its feet “in 
respectful homage to age," a woman of color, Jeanne Otto from Port-au-Prince, 
age 114 years. A free mulatto, Jean Favercau, from Trou, died at the age of lit) 
in 1765, 

105, S.A*A* f 20 October and 15 December 1784, 

106, S.A*A. t 6 October 1784, In the same month, Andre, a slave rented out to Madam 
ChampitJan and property of Charon the engineer at Port-au-Prince, is described, 
“For two months he has been in the king's jail without being reclaimed by 
anyone. 1 * 

107, Colonics C 9B 35, Pifcce No. 7, Dossier Administration Gen£ralc, National 
Archives, Paris, Is it really known whether at the time of the peace treaty all the 
Bahoruco Maroons had surrendered or whether some of them merely pretended 
to do so? Besides what were the available means to control, in those steeply 
sloped gorges, these scattered bands and the range of a population which for all 
of a century had consistently increased—multiplied in these retreats through re¬ 
cruits and births. 

108, In addition women organized their own Maroon group for women only, “Four 
Negresses of the same nation Marie, Marianne, Ctfeiie, and Nanette (the latter 
taking along her five-month-old daughter) have fled from the Bigot plantation 
(GonaTves). A.A. t 17 August 1769. 

109, Celebrated heroine of the Haitian War of Independence who followed her hus¬ 
band, General Lamartiniere in the battle of Crete a Pierrot. 

110, See Gabriel Debien, Les origines des esclaves des Antilles. 

111, The same practice was observed for plantation cows and mules entered on inven¬ 
tories with names such as “Charlotte, Trompeuse, Franchon, Genevieve, Dau- 
phine, Brillant, Bijou." See P. I^on, Les Dolie et les Ruby (Invcntaire d’une 
habitation & la marmclade), p. 185, 

112, The “Dicu" derivatives are not slave inventions. They had little choice in the 
names they bore. Mention is made of a St. Marc colonist named Dieulefils [God 
the son]. These derivatives are still very common in the Haitian countryside as 
Bois derivatives are in the cities: Ooisrond, Boisvert, Boigris, Diambob, Boissette, 
Boissaubin, Jolibois, Boily, Boilcau and others, all of French origin, 

113, Among the slaves of Merceron in Plaine du Cul-de-Sac. There was a slave ship 
Le Merceron. 

114, Catin was a diminutive of Catherine and in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen¬ 
turies did not have its present pejorative sense. In 1780 advertisements we find 
“the slave Catherine, sum anted Cat in." 

115, There was a Cayes colonist named Sanon, also a free mulatto. 

116, xMichel Bredy, NX,, was a mason in the Nippcs quarter. A-A., 15 October 1766. 

117, Name often carried by slaves from the British Antilles. 

118, A dis tort ion of Sosso or of the African canton zozeau? Thb Creole word dcsig- 


nates the male sex. The female is designated by a word deriving from the Pro¬ 
vencal coco ( cocoun ) meaning shell. 

119. While Bouqui was a common name, Malice appeared only once, in 1776. 

120. Likewise ''Vincent called Bissinthe, a maroon from Cap, branded St. P6. T * His 
master was a confectioner on Fenthi&vre St Two months after his escape, the 
Maroon Bissinthe was back in the Port-au-Prince jail, A.A. W 21 April and 29 June 
1779* As for St Fe, several years later he was still selling pills, Verdun anise, 
pastilles, and candy. 

12h In 1775, among the Maroons of Gros-Morne, a black creole coachman named 
Jean-Baptiste Baguedy* called Couneau* 

122, The name was spelled this way in 1770 for a Mina slave but hundreds of slaves 
were named Couacou. 

123* Is it the origin of the family name Papailler? 



Names of the Colonial Whites 

THE NAMES of colonial whites appearing in the Saint-Donringue news- 
papers arc representative in their diversity. First there are the proper names 
associated with the large plantations even when the owners living in France 
had entrusted their interests to an agent or manager, then those of the ad¬ 
ministrators or plantation caretakers. Also, there were the names of ereolized 
colonials and of functionaries' ecclesiastics, surgeons, those in active mili¬ 
tary service, magistrates and, last, the poor whites engaged in a wide variety 
of jobs—boilermakers, shoemakers, goldsmiths, carpenters, cabinetmakers, 
masons, merchants, tailors, barbers, bakers, innkeepers, vendors, and the 
rest. Thus, scattered throughout, one comes across the great names associated 
with Saint-Domingue such as Segur, Noailles, Chabannes, Gouy d’Arcy, 
Levis, La Rochefoucauld, de Paphy; de Charotte, Chateaumorand, Chaste- 
noye, de la Ferronays, d’Estaing, d’Argout, Prince de Rohan and others 
representing great French families, nobles, or high bourgeoisie, who lived in 
the colony for many years or who founded families there* Among these were 
Gallifet, Vaudreuil, Duclos, Garesche, Foache, d’Espinose, the Mardochee 
Mendes-France, all long established names in Petit-Gofive. 1 Too, there were 
the descendants of great names in France of whom it was said they appor¬ 
tioned their lives “between a bowl of rum and a black concubine”—a Vau¬ 
dreuil, a Chateauncuf, a Boucicaut. Of the colonists who, unlike the visitors 
in great haste to make a fortune and get out, lived in close contact with 
their work force, we find the families Rizoton, who arrived in 1716, the 
Pi vers of Saint-Marc, 3 the Digncron and Chatcaublond, and the Pays de 
Bourjolly family from La Rochelle or Anjou, settlers in Leogane since the 
earliest days of the colony. Their descendants Claude-Jean and Henri-Aiex- 
andre are originators of the branches issuing from their marriage with the 
sisters Hayo: Grandmaison, Epimadie and Louis-Rene Le Pays de Bour¬ 
jolly, ancestors of a Haitian family, the Bourjollys emigrated to the South 
with a branch in Port-au-Prince, The old Count de Luge from Saint-Marc’s 
parish, who was almost eighty years old when he died in the amis of a young 
servant girl of twenty named Fillcttc——according to Placide David, and An¬ 
nette according to Laujon, left three-quarters of his estate to this adored 
mulatto woman with whom he shared his last days in the shade of that extra¬ 
ordinary ancillary idyll* 



The Rosssgnols de Lachicotte, through marriages, founded the biggest 
and richest family in the colony 3 incessantly multiplying in Descabeux- 
Grandmont. He was survived by ten children—Arcueil Dulagon, who had 
nine children; Leclarc des Dunes, who had "at least eleven children,” Foincy 
the youngest, leaving behind eight illegitimate children in addition to chil¬ 
dren from the Rossignot, Desdunes and Vieux families. White colonists 
married black women mostly for convenience, such as Saint Martin of Arti- 
bonite who married an Arada woman with a dowry’ of 150 thousand francs 
in rents and a number of slaves, the great majority of whose deaths he caused 
by atrocities "even going so far as emasculation”; Gasparol Dumesny, who 
married an old black widow of seventy-two; she was free and "heiress to an 
estate worth a million”;* Bridou, who had no reservations about marrying 
Charlotte Desvaricux, an amiable and accessible black woman of question¬ 
able virtue who had amassed four hundred thousand francs running a brothel.® 

These legitimized alliances with black or light-skinned women were not 
viewed simply as good investments. From the earliest days there were ere- 
olized colonists who w r ere drawn to the sensual pleasures of the tropics. As 
early as 1688 Governor de Cussy became alarmed at the registration of 
“twenty marriages of colonists with mulatto or black women within a four- 
months period.” The legal proscription against such alliances was not strictly 
enforced in Saint-Domingue® during any period of colonial life. Neverthe¬ 
less, legitimate unions between white men and black women, however much 
practiced, were limited and frowned upon. There arc examples of long- 
lasting liaisons between colonists and slaves ending in marriage. Many colo¬ 
nists must have followed the example of Francois de la Rochelle who, at 
forty-eight years of age, married his fifty-four-year-old Arada slave and 
mother of his four children, or of Rene de la Bernadtere, a native of Quim- 
pcrle who, on 19 October 1774 married his Mandingo slave and with the 
same act, which took place in Caycs du Fond, legitimized five children born 
of the union. The eldest was already thirty-three and the others twenty- 
eight, seventeen, fiften and eleven, 7 The Code Noir did not forbid marriages 
between whiles and blacks, provided that the white was a bachelor. Never¬ 
theless, authorization was sometimes denied the black woman. 

Petty administrative annoyances served to snuff out many proposed mar¬ 
riages and the tenuous yet real reprisals against mixed couples posed a 
threat and in certain striking examples must have resulted in intimidation 
or deterrence. In 1762 Mr. Guerin, a wealthy resident of Jacmcl, was re¬ 
moved from his post as churchwarden of his parish for this very reason. One 
Boldy, a captain of dragoons in the Port-au-Prince regiment, was denied 
promotion because of his marriage to a black woman. Similarly, there was 
Lc Brephon, of Jacmel, whose grandmother was reputedly a black woman 
from Madagascar, In 1771, a Chapuzet was rejected for officer's rank in the 
militia because his great great-grandmother was a black woman from St 
Kitts. The king refused to examine the titles of nobility of two whites married 

Names of the Colonial Whites 197 

to mulatto women, 3 The king treated the matter with formality* A letter from 
his minister dated 27 May 1771 addressed to the administration at Saint- 
Domingue declared: “It is His Majesty’s desire that under no pretext are you 
to approve marriages between whites and women of mixed blood* * * 

Briefly, the proscriptions, reprisals, and scorn, of which the tt misall^ed , ’ 
were victims, do not seem to have been common throughout the colony,® It 
is especially in the North that this kind of discrimination is practiced* In 
spite of the examples drawn from Jacmel, the Southwest, like many of the 
parishes in the South, always reflected a crossing of black-white lines through 
marriages between whites and freed blacks* Clearly the whites exercised a 
common policy, subtle though apparent, shifting and opportunistic, of limit¬ 
ing as much as possible the threat to the balance of power represented by the 
growth, even the skin coloring of the class of freedmen. 

It was a policy supported by the administration, dictated from Paris, 
deliberately and tacitly accepted by all the colonists* We will pay particular 
attention to this question* . * * In any case it is more by recognition and the 
legitimizing of bastards than by marriages that names of colonists were 
adopted by freedmen. In one way or another, this use of legal expedient was 
perforce restricted* On the other hand, it was the rare colonist, married or 
single, who did not signal out from field workers or domestic slaves an 
ardent light-skinned woman or seductive Arada or Congo woman to share 
his bed- It was a custom which was not out of tune with the generalized dis¬ 
soluteness of the time. Ninety-five percent, if not more, of the light-skinned 
offspring resulting from these liaisons were for this reason illegitimate, were 
given their freedom or brought up with care in the colony or in France, pro¬ 
tected from birth against the scandalous sales of tE a mother with a mulatto 
baby at her breast* 5 ’ 

These illegitimate children advanced economically and educationally* 
Together with the free blacks, they would form a class of freedmen called 
"people of color*” We will focus on them, too, in our search for names still 
persisting in Haiti and for the purpose of indicating their situation in the 

To get back to the white colonists, the long list of names presented below 
was, with this in mind, taken at random from the examination of Saint- 
Dominguc newspapers* They could be made complete with lists spread across 
five volumes of Indemnit&s de Saint-Domingue, but the mere enumeration of 
them would be beyond the scope of this work* 10 Those found in the adver¬ 
tisements and sufficient for emphasizing the importance of the colonial heri¬ 
tage in the Haitian patrimony are as follows: 

Artaud, Alexis, Jacques and Claude Aubourg, 11 businessmen in Dondon 
and at Cap; Pierre Astier Junior (Grand Anse), Amblard, Pierre Aubry 
(Gona'ives), Jacques Bailiergeau, Pierre Basile, Port-au-Prince; Bayard 
(Jeremie), Antoine Blot from Les Cayes, Bonhomme, Petit-Goave resident; 
Chariot, a Cap innkeeper; Beauxpains of Nantes; Pierre Francois Covin; 


the widow Cbatclin at Gonaives (it is also written Chatclain); 12 Mathieu 
Constant at Port-Margot (originally from Martiques in Provence), Chevalier; 
J* B. Duquayla u (originally from Raquefort), Deronseray 14 Dessources 
(GonaXves), Antoine Darbouze (Torbec), Marianne Duchesne, Julie Des- 
marais of Jcremie, Durocher; the Est£ves brothers, Port-au-Prince clock- 
makers; Fouche, Fouchard, the best known settled in Saint-Marc on the 
plantation bearing his name; Godefroy, a ship’s captain from le Havre, Gue¬ 
rin, Gaillard, Genevieve Guerin, Gaudin, Hilaire, Hyppolite; Hudicourt, 15 
Jumel, Lamothe, the widow Lalue, resident in Bellevue (it is also written 
Lalau), three leagues from Port-au-Prince, proprietor of thirty-two earreaux 
of land in coffee and linked with Saint-Jacques, a businessman in Port-au- 
Prince; J, B* Laforest, of Bordeaux; Lescot, Marie Lavacfac, Francois La- 
vaud, 1 * Massac, Moreau; a surgeon Lcspinasse in Port-au-Prince, 17 Mathon 
de Brotte (in Baraderes), 1 * Daniel Monsanto, Cap businessman, Louis de 
Malleval, procurator at Saint-Louis; Claude Martineau, squire and captain 
of dragoons in France, train-bearer to Mmc. Elizabeth, the king’s sister, and 
living in the Cavaillon 13 sector; Nadal, a Cap businessman, on rue Espag- 
nole, 20 Parct, Jacob Pereyra, 21 Pcrigord, mason at Cap; Dominique Pradel, 
the Widow Petit, Cap crockery' merchant; Mme. de Raymond, Sejourne, 
father and son (Jercmie). 22 Vital, Viaud, Vorbe, a miller in Cap, Father 
Zephirm in Cap, 

To complete the listing we would need to add many rather funny colonial 
names which with their awkward associations have not been popularly traced 
in lineages: Cigogne [Stork], Dombriel, Cochon 25 [Pig] from Margot,* 
Mazctte [Gutless], Vivaroit [from Viviers], Bijou [Jewel], Baudet [Jack¬ 
ass], Bourreau [Hangman], Chameau [Camel], Roucou [Red], Charbon 
[Charcoal], Lechappe [the Fugitive], Chapeau, Pain, Patissier [Pastry cook], 
Chalumeau [Torch], Grand Basstn, Laymant |Lover], Mafaulie [My folly], 
Maron, and others that tempt a smile. Equally so the nobility created by 
Chrisiophe and invested with Dukes of Marmelade or Lemonade (Limo- 
nade), laughed at by people who forgot the House of Orange or the Dukes 
of Foix [Liver] and Vaux [Veal] and Bishop Cauchon, 

The fact is that all the Haitian families that kept these names did not 
acquire them by right of birth. Their appropriation was due more to the 
initiative of slaves at the time of the general proclamation of liberty than to 
the initiative of the recognized legitimate or legitimatized freedmen who only 
rarely were able to hold on to the names of their white fathers. 

A more interesting fact is that we can see families, originally black, be¬ 
coming mulatto or, again, descendants of enfranchised mulaitoes ending up 
as black families. For example, Laurent and Jacques Jumel, longtime freed- 
men in the Saint-Marc region and descendants of the colonists Jumel, 24 were 
the ancestors of a black family. In the same parish the slave Jean-Pierre 
would adopt and keep the name of the plantation on Saint-Marc heights, 
which is the name with which he was branded. 25 This black was, through his 

Names of the Colonial Whites 199 

son Cadestin and grandson Cadet Fouchard, both black, in direct line the 
ancestor of a family now mulatto. The Estim6s of Verrettes are direct de¬ 
scendants of the French colonist Beausoleil, although the name was also 
carried by a Maroon of the Bambara people who was “a cigar maker, prop¬ 
erty of Mme. Fizefier,” and by another slave, a Nago turned Maroon at 
Saint-Marc in 1783- 

Other examples were the Bonshomme, some of whom were described as 
being “very light-skinned mulattoes” or white, functionaries in Pctit-Goave; 
the Desdunes, the Rdmis, Viauds, Bazins, the Bellegardes, the Bernards, the 
Latortues, Raymonds, Fourcands, and others, changing skin color or giving 
rise over the generations, to a double branch either black or light-skinned. 

Also known arc the descendants of the Duval-Monville family, proprie¬ 
tors both at Saint-Domingue and Martinique where they had retired before 
the Revolution, at the same time as the Villarson family from Torbeck 
(Count Cullon de Villarson) and the Langlades from Mirebalais. A Jean- 
Marie Duval appeared to be strongly linked with the free mulattoes of Port 
Royal from 1763 on. 2C Other members of the Duval family settled in Port- 
au-Prince in 1791 and were proprietors of a plantation in the plain of Cul- 
de-Sac. The mulatto Duval-Monville Salomon was a resident of les Cayes* , . . 

These are but a few examples. They could be enlarged upon in a projec¬ 
tion on the present composition of the Haitian elite by a survey of the skin 
colors of the intermediate class known as freedmen in the thousands of bills 
of sale, birth and death notices, wills and gifts which comprise the rich col¬ 
lections still conserved in the “Minutes dcs notaires de Saint-Domingue” and 
in parochial registers. 37 Certainly, this would be an enormous task exceeding 
the energies and the lifespan of a single researcher interested in unearthing 
these details on color—a task which could only be characterized as an ex¬ 
travagant fantasy to be proposed to a harebrained idler or a maniac, . * . 

If Moreau de Saint-Mery, fond of these kinds of games, were alive today, 
he would find it quite difficult to unravel from the entangled crossovers 
either the origins from the “coffee side” or the “ebony side” of many of the 
bourgeois families in Haiti. In the absence of a methodic analysis of the 
notary records of Saint-Domingue from the end of the colonial period, and 
relying only on the known physical characteristics or still extant traditions 
about family origins, an inquiry conducted in so summary and imprecise a 
manner on the basis of a hundred genealogical trees could, nevertheless, pro¬ 
vide suggestive if limited results, ft is known that some black or mestizo 
families included white branches; witness the well-known case of the black 
woman Cessette Dumas of Guinaudee at the root of that prodigious Dumas 
trilogy, or, in the Bordeaux area, the direct descendants of Placide Louver- 
ture, showing not the slightest trace of the African blood at their roots. 28 
These are exceptional cases and not to be taken into account, just as one 
would avoid the difficulties of a too-risky classification of certain griffes and 


grimauds of both sexes straddling the ebony and the copper on the basis of 
their being either well off or poor 

To the contrary, if we adopt the middle road, what curious finds might 
there not be, all to the bewilderment of those who sometimes try to give to 
details about skin color a sense, even the orientation, of a fallacious policy. 
Actually there are lew Haitian bourgeois families, black or mixed bloods, 
which have remained without some admixture of these two rival complexions 
by one or another of their branches. 

Of the dark-skinned families that have remained black, we can cite— 
with no chance of error?—the families Manigat,** Proph&te, Pierre, Piquant, 
Saint-Lot, Desinor, Piquion, Nord Laguerre, and a few other members of 
the solid landed aristocracy of the North. And among those families of mixed 
blood that have continued this characteristic arc the families Martineau, 
Desquiron, Th£ard, Roy, Thebaud, Rouzier, Blanchet, Chauvet, Auguste, or 
Liataud,* 0 believed to be descendants of the heroic mulatto woman Marie 
Jeanne. But can it be certain that either of these families, characterized as 
“pure” black, or mixed-blood, if license may be taken with the term, actually 
remained so in all their branches from colonial limes to ours? Was each 
branch sheltered against alliances and the hazards of crossing over so as to 
preserve that pretended original purity, as though it were a matter of zealously 
w'atching over some precious good, a maidenhood, perhaps a national flag? 

And if by a freak of chance this were so, ihc gamble played out in the 
miracle of inviolable chromosomes would have been as strange and as singu¬ 
lar as if this were deliberately willed. However that may be, the rather curious 
classifications resulting from the inquiry would in other respects suffice to 
expose the strange and vain nature of all questions of color in our infant 
bourgeoisie, puffed up with pretensions though bom only yesterday. Who 
can pretend not to know that one has but to raise the lowest branches of our 
young genealogical plant to be certain of discovering a black Maroon with 
severed hamstrings or a crudely branded slave woman whom the master 
one night invited to share his couch? And then? What do village idiots talk 
about if not about windmills? Let us take a closer look at this ill-conccivcd 

Among black families now for the most part light-skinned are the fol¬ 
lowing: F. D. Legitime, L. F. Salomon, F, Armand, Cadestin Fouchard, P. 
Mcars, E. Chancy, T, Beliard, V. Douyon, C. Zamor, Gal. Alcrte, I, Jeanty. 

Among mulatto families descended from white colonists and now black 
arc Estim£, J urn el, Duval (Monville) Verret, Demesnin, Rosemond, Ray¬ 
mond, Vilgrain, Marlique, Loiscau, Boisvert, Lamy, Pierre Antoine, Alfred, 
Duviella, Baron, Baptiste. Families of mixed blood changing to black, now 
again to mixed blood arc Desdunes, Beaubrun Vieux, Laraque, Tardieu, 
Hudicourt, Lavau, Canal. 

Among the families of mixed blood having parallel branches, one black, 
one mixed blood are the following: 

Names of the Colonial Whites 201 
























In conclusion we note that from one generation to another constant skin 
color is extremely rare; more often there is a mixing and a continuous chang¬ 
ing back and forth from copper to ebony and vice versa, so much so that 
it is logical to believe that “the color question” would be the loser if this 
tendency were to continue to hold over a few decades, accentuating the 
ironic game of the chromosomes. At least the ridiculousness and inconsist¬ 
ency of color would be made clear. Certainly mestizo families of black origin 
would be most often mixed by alliances with white men or generally white 
women. The majority of mulatto women of earlier days were inimical to 
such unions. Perhaps in our time education or the hazards of heritage, eco¬ 
nomic conditions and contacts with the outside world will lead our young 
sisters to less rigid conceptions. 

If these alliances—legitimate, of course—between copper and ebony 
were, and still are, rare the cause must be sought in the colonial mentality and 
the complex about seeking skin color closer to the white, a complex per¬ 
petuated and crystallized as an aesthetic standard even In the country areas 
where it is expressed in terms of “red Negro” or “Negro woman with long 
hair.”* 1 This fact is important for making clear the persistence and the 
extent of these peculiar expressions of the colonial mentality. For instance, 
it is a common experience to hear issuing from the lips of peasants, and not 
without some pride, the claim that "great grandfather was a Negro with 
beautiful red color, and his mother a griffonne with silken hair.., 

This colonial complex is particularly highlighted in Voodoo in which 
we find deities ( has ) linked with white. Catholic counterparts; Lcgba—St, 
Peter or St, Anthony; Damballah—St, Patrick; Change—St. John; Loko—St. 
Joseph; Ogou—Fcrraille (St. James the Elder), all of them in attendance on 
black Zaka, the Creole-speaking peasant keeper of the gardens wearing his 
dark blue blouse while accepting as an offering a drink of anise-flavored rum 
with some mats moutu .f Sometimes they adopted the form of long-haired 
light-skinned men and women speaking perfect French and demanding 
chicken when not asking for rayon, silk materials, and champagne. Thus, 
Agoue (St. Ulrich) is a very light-skinned male with green eyes, and Erzilie, 
the most popular of Voodoo divinities, is represented as a light-skinned 
woman with a flowing head of hair, with an elegant bearing, French diction 
and who, because of color prejudice, shuns the advances of black-skinned 
Gucde-Nibo, a * 

It should be possible to illustrate this silly subracism by any number of 


other examples drawn from the perfidious legacy of Saint-Dominguc. How¬ 
ever, the case of Pet ion and the eldest daughter of the Emperor Dcssatincs, 
too often cited and quite erroneously so, must be excluded from these exam¬ 
ples. It is regrettable that this political marriage, which would have served 
both as example and appeasement, never took place; but in all honesty it 
was not logical to expect Petion to marry Celim&ne who at the time was the 
inamorata of the young and reckless Captain Chancy of the Toussaint- 
Louverture family. If the Emperor—a fair man and decent to the point of 
naivete—did not know of the affair Petion certainly did, for he and Chancy 
were the best of friends. Furthermore, Petion, already opting for bachelor 
status' 13 and personal freedom, had just a few months previously installed his 
new mistress, Joute Lachenais, the most alluring woman of the time, in an 
attractive little slate-covered house situated where the daily, Le Matin , is 
presently located, on EugSne Bourjolly Street. 34 In this case, was it that 
Petion did not choose to honor himself by marrying the Emperor's daughter, 
or w T as it that Chancy chose to dishonor her? 

It must be pointed out that the best way to eliminate subracism basically 
has always depended not on documenting inventories of skin color in terms 
of comparative lightness or darkness or in classifying hair as peppercorn or 
silken, or noses as aquiline or broad, but rather in guarding against a scandal¬ 
ous colonial inheritance, that is, that the lighter-skinned individuals, in addi¬ 
tion to a color considered symbolically more favored, did possess if now they 
do not, a much larger proportion of the advantages of good fortune and 
education inherited from the old masters, principally in the West and the 
South, at the expense of the black bourgeois majority who, since 1946, 
have been rapidly catching up. In short, and especially to the extent that the 
scandalous exploitation by the new colonials is perpetuated, the virulent an¬ 
tagonism against the ruling propertied bourgeoisie will be brought into bal¬ 
ance only by means of a fair distribution of the national wealth and not by 
sonic vulgar, indiscreet battle of the digestive tube and skin coloration. 

The fact is that these complex data relating to the despicable appetites 
of a mere fraction of the population are of little significance when compared 
with the single, all important problem challenging the Haitian people. The 
problem is not one of tallying the dark and the light skinned among the 
bourgeoisie. The overriding need of the Haitians is for both these groups to 
purposefully link their destinies with that of the masses and to assist them 
in their struggle to rise out of their ccnturies-old poverty, ignorance, and 
marginal health. All the rest is but the sport of the self-indulgent. The need is 
for action. 

Surely the masses will not wait indefinitely for our bicolored elite to 
decide on this rescue operation. The masses believe neither in Santa Claus 
nor in some hypothetical pelican’s sacrifice of those dark and light-skinned 
Haitians who, for some three centuries, have learned only to play the role 

Names of the Colonial Whites 203 

of self-centered, exploiting freedmen, , * * Someday the hour of the masses 
shall strike—with or without us. 

That is as it should be. *,. 

Let us, however, after this long tangent generated by the subject, return 
to the subject of names once colonial now evolved as Haitian. It will be noted 
that the spelling of the colonial name, as it devolved or was assigned, was 
sometimes modified. Loubau would become Loubcau; Lalau, Laleau; the s 
would be dropped from Estfcves; Megy became Mdgie; Chatelin almost al¬ 
ways became Chatelain; Duquayla, Duguetla; Pereyra, Pereira; Mai leva!, 
Malval; Cassignol, Cassagnol; Barrault, Barau; Bdliard, Bcliard; Heurteloup 
dropped the final p . The name Heurtelou was perpetuated by Francois Her- 
teloup, originally from Anjou, who died in Leogane, willing certain benefices 
to his slave Marie Louise, mother of his two children.“ 

It is only in the most exceptional cases that a freedman or slave kept 
his former master’s particle of nobility as did Oos dc Maycnne, a free black 
in Mirebalais, 1 * For example, de Mcsmin of Leogane would become Demes- 
min; des Dunes became Desdunes; des Brosses, Debrosse; du Verger, Du- 
verge; d*Hanachc, 3T Danache; des Sources, Dessources; de Re noncourt , 
Dcrenoncourt. . * * 

Even so, some particles still seen in the names of freedmen during the 
colonial period would disappear with Independence. For example the free 
blaek Pierre d'lmba (Is the name French?) who, leading a company of free 
blacks from Cap, distinguished himself at the siege of Cartagena in 1697; 
the quadroon Mar the de Braehe from Anse-a-Vcau, a free mulatto woman 
Magdcleme de la Marniere, or the freedman Alexandre de Gand, the par¬ 
ticle being dropped at the time of the Revolution to become Degand, even 
though we earlier found some Degand brothers, no particle, freedmen in 
Arcahaie in 1784. This, although the spelling Degand was not adopted by 
the white colonials of that name before 1793. The name Dessalincs could 
have come from Cuvert dcs Salines, a colonist in the North and a deputy 
from Quarticr-Morin in 1791. 33 

With the Revolution, the de, du, and des, all particles denoting nobility, 
true or false, were prudently dropped. A certain Verdier complained on 10 
October 1792 that he had been “surprised** to notice that “his name had 
been embellished with a du, and announced that his name was precisely 
Verdier. aB The colonist Monercau Dcligny Ogives notice that with the Revo¬ 
lution he discarded and now once again unequivocally discards the name 
Deligny to be henceforth known and to sign his name only as Monnercau.* 144 * 

For a better understanding of this phenomenon, let us briefly examine 
the names of freedmen. First of all, since they were forbidden in their new 
status to take the names of colonists, they frequently adopted first names, 
sometimes complimented with borrowed names having no connection with 
any former master or colonial plantation. Unquestionably, it is from the 
freedmen that we have inherited that plethora of first names 41 raised to the 


importance of family names, such as: Jean-Pierre, Jean-Baptiste, Toussaint, 
Cesar, Michel, Ldveille, Lajoic, Jolicoeur. It was the slaves who for the 
most part handed down to us names of white colonists, although many of 
them emerged in liberty with only a first name, since all the slaves on a 
given plantation could not have taken the same name, and since they did 
not care to take the name of some white man who had not been their master. 

Freedmen’s Names 


BLACK AND MULATTO masters were also the victims of marronage. Sim¬ 
ilarity in skin color did not always signify solidarity. In the colonial setting, 
free blacks and mulattoes possessed slaves and treated them in the colonial 
manner, that is to say, with the usual scorn and abuse, and with concern 
only for their own interests. The slaves ran away from them just as from the 
whites. Hence, the names of these freedmen appeared with increasing fre¬ 
quency in runaway-slave advertisements. In the Saint-Domingue press, names 
of freedmen proprietors always had to be preceded by “!c nomm6" or “la 
nommee” [one, the said] with the designations: Free Mulatto, Free Black, 
Free Quadroon, Free Griffe. When color was not indicated, the proprietor 
was, in contemporary terms and taking colonial prejudice into account, “on 
the ebony side, not on the copper.” 

The title “mister,” or “madame” or “sir” was reserved for whites alone. 
This privilege was challenged by the insurgent freedmen at Croix des Bou¬ 
quets. It was also the point of discussions at Pont-Valli&re in the Croix-des- 
Bouquets Church, and finally at Widow Elisabeth Damien’s plantation. 42 We 
have, in our modest personal collection two extremely rare brochures on the 
*Pcace Treaty between the white citizens and the colored citizens” published 
by Barthclcmy Press, Port-au-Prince. Article XIV reads as follows: 

Distinctions such as the said. Free Negro, Free Mulatto, Free Quadroon, col¬ 
ored Citizens and others of this type shall be henceforth strictly forbidden 
and from now on the only designation used for all citizens of the colony shall 
be those used for whites. 

In a ringing speech, the Mayor of Port-au-Prince highlighted in the fol¬ 
lowing terms the happy accord which the Treaty of Damiens of 21 October 
1791 brought to the long quarrel about titles: 

Citizens of color, my friends, you arc now free of this appellation: No longer 
is there any distinction, any difference. In the future all of us together will 
have but a single designation, that of citizens. , , , 

This Concordat of Damiens proved to be a short-lived wish. Right up to the 
general Proclamation of Liberty they habitually continued to refer to blacks. 



griffes, mulattocs and quadroons of the frecdmen's class as “citizens of color" 
or “the said" Beriehon, Free Negro of Croix des Bouquets, “the said," or 
“one 1 ’ Marianne Free Mulattress of Dondon. , * . Our examination of the 
Saint-Domingue newspapers turned up only a single exception. In the an¬ 
nouncement of Jean-Baptiste La Pointers departure for abroad in 1784, he 
is referred to as “Mister," but La Pointc was an exceptional case* This 
legendary griffc from Arcahayc 4 * w f as more white than any of the colonists* 
Educated, bold and fearless, cruel and haughty, an unrepentant swashbuckler 
burning with ambition, he was a bloody and ferocious slaver completely 
without ideals* He had been brought up in France where his sister Olive was 
the friend of Fouch£, received and coddled in the most fashionable salons, 
at Mme. Tallien’s, and at Cambacer£s\ He was to marry a relative of the 
latter* A defender of the Metropole’s interests, he was consulted by Bona¬ 
parte and was, the next day, prepared to sell the colony to the English, pro¬ 
vided that slavery would be maintained* 44 It is clear why this sinister person 
was able to cross the color line and have bestowed upon him, in a miserable 
solitude, the flattering title “Sire Jcan-Baptiste La Pointc*" Toward the end 
of the seventeenth century, in other newspaper items and elsewhere, in notary 
minutes and especially through courtesies probably handsomely paid for, a 
few freedmen, rare examples, were beginning to be accorded the title “mis¬ 
ter*" 45 These encroachments caused an outcry as evidenced in these corro¬ 
sive reproaches addressed to the editor of the Gazette de Saint-Domingue on 
21 May 1791: 

Sir, you frequently make the same errors, shocking to the eyes and cars of 
the Gazette’s readers. In the most recent issues you gave the Mulattoes the 
status of White men by calling them Mister* The said Pcrri4 and Couillau 
are three Mulattocs. I give you this advice as a matter I believe beneficial to 
the entire colony. 

The protest was published with extenuating editorial comment: 

It is not possible to tell whether signatories living in Montrouis are White or 
Colored. We cannot avoid similar surprises but whenever informed we will 
always move quickly to anticipate their effect. 

The ad in question was declared null and void and replaced by a new an¬ 
nouncement concerning “the said Ferric, Sr., young Perric and Couillau 
M. L*, minors," 

Names of freedmen can be found in notarized acts, parochial registers, 
and in the innumerable parish petitions. However, those supplied by runaway 
slave ads are fairly characteristic: 

“Les nommes" Jacques Antoine, Free Mulatto, Fort Dauphin; Pierre Aubry, 
Pierre Angomard, Free Black; Adelaide, Free Mulatress; Louis, called des 

Freedmen *s Names 207 

Rouleaux, well-known baker in Cap* who owned three houses; Babiche* Babitte 
M. L. r of Croix-des-Bouquets; Bazillc M* L., Louis-Charles Victotre Borno* 
Free Griffe from Mirebalais; Marie-Jean ne Besson N. L. of Caiemittes; Mar¬ 
guerite Colas called Maille, Free Black in Cap; Pierre Mathurin Cange, M* L*; 
Chaviteau* M. L,; Charles, Free Quadroon in Mirebalais; Dcnne Cameron, 
M* L*; Terrier Rouge; Marie-Catherine Mercy called Dartigue Longue, Free 
Mestiza living in Cayes* 46 Dau, Free Mulatress from Lcoganc; Cadet Deron- 
vitle, M. L*, in Les Verrettes; Jean-Fransois Diaquoi, Free Black; Arcahaie* 
Du roc her* M. L.: Douge* Jr.* N, L.; Suzanne* M, L*; Nanette, N. L.; Joseph- 
George, M. L.; Annette, M. L.; Charlotte* M. L.* Mondieu, M. L*; Margot 
Senegalle* Free Negress of Boucassin; Magdelen Viau, Free Mulattress of Cap; 
Sanon, Free Mulatto of Cayes; Jasmin Lilavols* Joseph* M. L., of Jacmcl; 
Jean-Louis* called Lafontant, N. L.; Jean* M. L* f Jacmel; Joseph Lebrun, Sn* 
M. L., of Saint-Marc. Lebled* M. L*, of Mirebalais; Pierre Leroy, G. L,, 
Laurent, Q. L,* from Grande Riviere du Nord; Latortue* N. L., in Riviere 
Salee; Alexandre Legrand* N* L.; Jeremie* Salenave, M. L.* of Anibonite; 
Madeleine Toulouse, Jacques Manon* Viaud, M* L„ a fisherman; Louis, 
M. L.; Coucoute* Free Negress; Marie Vital, N. L., in Grande-Riviere; Pierre- 
Louis Pouget, a Cap mason, M* L. . » . 

The first observation to be made is that freed men more frequently carry 
slaves’ first names than masters 1 * Further evident was the tendency to add to 
the given name an adopted one* The latter was seldom that of the former 
master. To do so would have been to violate colonial law. In fact, by the 
terms of a statute of the Saint-Domingue Administrators published at Port- 
au-Prince in June and in July 1773, at Cap, freedmen were forbidden to carry 
“white” names* They had to have a surname “derived from their African 
language or their trade and color, which could never be that of a white colo¬ 
nial family.” Usually the freedmen drew upon mythology rather than Africa, 
or upon Greco-Roman or French history: Caesar, Apollo, Voltaire, Alex¬ 
andre, Hector, Ponipey* Brutus. They especially turned to simple or com¬ 
pound Christian names or else some whimsical name the sound of which for 
some reason or other they liked* Such is the case, for example, of Jean-Louis 
Doyon, son of a free creole black woman named Maric-Therese, and of 
Jean Doyon* called Dauphine, a white building contractor* “In keeping with 
local custom J* L. Doyon carried a surname since childhood; he was com¬ 
monly called Bonhommc, and, when a colonial law required mulattoes to give 
up the names of their white fathers, he took the name Doguin.” 47 

The use of given names was thus extended: Telemaque, Benjamin, Ma¬ 
thurin, Lubin, Clement, Aime, Nicolas, Laguerrc, Lajoic, Charles-Pierre, 
Juste, Germain, Prosper, Larose, Felix* Adrien, Augustin, Momplaisir, Pier¬ 
rot, Dominique* 4 * These first names become surnames exist also in France* but 
on the basis of the lists of names of colonists come to Saint-Domingue, it 
appears these were few in number. It is therefore safe to say that it was from 
the study of slave proper names that the freedmen drew this great number of 
first names elevated to the position of family names* 


This was seldom the case with the slave who, from 1793, when restric¬ 
tions were practically abolished, would take his slave name or an entirely 
different one supplemented by the surname of a white, whether or not this 
latter had been his owner* A great number of slaveholders’ names are well 
known to us. So many of them appear again among Haitian family names. 
By contrast they were not significantly present among the names of freed- 
men, which again we know well. The conclusion is evident. Gearly, and to 
repeat, it was particularly the slave who would perpetuate the names of the 
French colonials in the Haitian onomastic index* 

Inquiry on the Freed men’s Class 


IT HAS BEEN SAID repeatedly that the majority of freedmen were mulat- 
toes. This is true only to the extent that one chooses to exclude from their 
ranks that very large proletariat composed of the “quasi-enfranchised,” 
(afjranchis sans Vetre), “liberated” slaves, and tolerated fugitives' or choose 
to ignore the wide diversity of enfranchisements based not solely on consid¬ 
erations of birth, but also—in much larger number—on a wide range of 
motives from which slaves in general, including the blacks, could profit, 40 

Over the years, these accretions were to significantly modify the respec¬ 
tive percentages of mulattocs and blacks comprising this class. Apparently 
routinely and through a cumulative momentum, we have gone on to bestow a 
“copper tint” upon a class which, long before the Revolution, tended in 
essence to be, as it was expressed in the colonial language, “on the ebony 
side,” Most free blacks, including of course, the “quasi-enfranchised” and 
the '‘liberated” were without doubt much in the same situation as manants 
et pobans t the poor whites, that is, unprovided for and counting for nothing 
despite their color In reality, the mulattoes controlled the freedmen’s class, 
dominating it not by virtue of numbers but because of the seniority of their 
free status, their better economic situation facilitated by their white fathers, 
and a sometimes assured splendid education in France. 

This de facto supremacy was, besides, desired by the colonial administra¬ 
tion, which persisted in attributing to the freedmen’s class the single qualifi¬ 
cation “colored people.” If interests alone served to determine a class, it was 
true that the “quasi-enfranchised” and the “liberated” awaiting a definitive 
statute found themselves still on the margins of the freedmerfs class. They 
were not owners of slaves and plantations, even if, on the other hand, they 
were free to dispose of their persons and their meager belongings, to work at 
their convenience for wages, and to live, after a fashion, close to the breezes 
of liberty. 

Why does Moreau de Saint-Mery, who quite properly defined this class 
with that concise statement “By freedmen I mean all who arc neither slave 
nor white,” why, in order to group them, does he invoke the existence of 
an intermediate class within the very world of the freedmen? After so realis¬ 
tic a definition, W'hy the reservation, this fractioning of a class cut loose from 
its base? What were these “quasi-enfranchised” and those “liberated” who 



were considerably more numerous than the enfranchised? What was colonial 
policy as regards enfranchisement? 

We must try to remove the veil surrounding these social realities in 
Saint-DominguG, to reveal their complexities patiently so that assertions about 
these aspects of colonial life may not seem bold or gratuitous. First of all, 
the thrust of these questions about the enfranchised must be understood. It is 
not our objective to shift blame on some putative black or mulatto majority 
in anticipation of subsequently levying charges against the class of freedmen. 

It goes without saying that, from the sociological point of view, it will 
still be possible to assert with relevance that it was the class of the mulattoes 
who dominated it and, by the will of the masters, ensured its direction in 
line with colonial reality. This we repeat. Nevertheless, numerically speaking 
—and that is the sense of certain following questions—this class included a 
large black majority although, applying today's terminology to the colonial 
realities, it could be said that these latter were only marginal Was it truly a 
matter of “marginals” in a system of masters and slaves in which, despite 
sanctions levied against them, the “misallicd” colonists were always numbered 
in the ranks of the masters? Why would men and women no longer serving 
as slaves, whether or not legally free, be counted as slaves? That is the whole 
question, in our view, an aspect of the social structure of Saint-Domingue to 
this day unexamined. 

Were there more free blacks than free mulattoes among the freedmen? 
Available statistics are unfortunately sadly incomplete. We have personally 
examined a great deal of data that point up the above questions. We know to 
what extent we can rely on the monthly report sent to the ministry by the 
governors. In order to avoid lengthy proceedings and the vexations of the 
usual official channels as well as the royal and municipal taxes 50 imposed 
upon enfranchisement, colonists who gave or sold freedom avoided official 
declarations as much as possible. Thus it is almost certain that statistics on 
enfranchisement fail by far to give a true picture of the class of freedmen. 
One w r ould be, to say the least, ill advised to draw conclusions from incom¬ 
plete and quite commonly distorted data. 

Colonial mentality with its prejudices weighed heavily in the classifica¬ 
tions established by Moreau dc Saint-Mery based on shades of color. On the 
one hand he notes that “skin colors closest to that of the black are most 
common,” and on the other hand, for the same class, he gives the following 
percentages: one-sixth of “lighter color including that of the quadroon,” two- 
sixths of blacks and three-sixths of mulattoes mixed with griffes, marabouts, 
and sacatras,* which, in spite of the last percentage being shared by three 
color groupings, made it possible for him to conclude that mulattoes were in 
“numbers sufficient to justify in common usage giving their name to the freed- 
men's class.” 

* Marabout—Born of mulatto and black parents, 
t A mixture of mulatto and grille or marabout. 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 21! 

Quite apparent then is the elasticity of the label mulatto and the tenuous 
nature of any mulatto numerical superiority, especially when one considers 
the tendency to reason that "very few black liberes differed in their habitual 
behavior from the slaves" and that "there is a vast difference between eman¬ 
cipated blacks and the others." 51 Discrimination could not be more clearly 
established. Moreau unconsciously attests this when speaking of the class 
of the emancipated separated from its mass. It is dearly evident that nu¬ 
merical superiority of the mulattocs separated in this manner was, to say 
the least, difficult to establish. For these reasons we consider it more prudent 
in attempting to establish the composition of the freedmen’s class to con¬ 
sider the usual ways of enfranchisement, the reasons, secret or avowed, 
behind the grant and the concession or sale of freedom. 

Who precisely were the emancipated? Certainly not just the bastard sons 
of the colonists. By virtue of their more carefully nurtured education and 
more assured economic advantages they did, indeed, constitute an elite. An 
indisputable fact. It must be admitted that in the early days of the colony 53 
these bastards clearly dominated in number the emancipated class, which, 
by custom and continuing routine, they had come to symbolize. Custom, yes, 
for could this game of descent have sufficed throughout the life of the colony 
to perpetuate the numerical superiority of mulattocs while the possibilities 
for legal or extralegal freedom were developing an overwhelming majority 
for the blacks? This is difficult to believe.* 3 

While the freedmen’s class comprised at least thirty thousand blacks and 
mulattocs, when the National Assembly considered according the benefit of 
citizen’s rank with full privileges exclusively to people of color born of free 
parents, "it was said that the status of blood relationships was so difficult 
to justify for many reasons." Among these was the poor state of registration 
of freedmen; according to Mr. Blanchclande himself, the decree would be¬ 
stow political rights on no more than four hundred mulattocs in Saint- 
Domingue. 64 

The greatest contribution to emancipation, it can be seen, was provided 
by the slave’s own initiative in asserting his freedom, however extralegal, 
through the action of marronage. While the data indicate 297, one cannot 
for the same period ignore the one to two thousand Maroons in the North 
alone. What must the figures have been for the rest of the country? There is 
of course the justifiable objection that these Maroons in their extralegal 
freedom lived outside the law and should therefore not have been officially 
counted as members of the freedmen’s class just as, for example, the thou¬ 
sands of other slaves emancipated, though, for reasons of fiscal evasion, 
undeclared. However, to that special category if we may use this term, of 
freedmen, which, for the moment wc quickly set aside, there must be added 
the considerable number of slaves set free because of age or through special 
consideration—house-servants rewarded, skilled workers, cooks, nurses, wet 
nurses to the masters’ children, fathers and mothers with many children (8 


living), exchange for a maidenhead taken, the masters’ favorite concubines, 
good workers and slaves rewarded for acts of devotion* To be included also 
were those set free for outstanding services, denunciation of Maroons and 
effective help in capturing them; slaves liberated after service with regular 
troops or with the militia; liberation through marriage, wills, or reproduction; 
and, finally, slaves who, by dint of their savings, bought their liberty either 
in legally registered sale or, as was very often the case, in sales that the 
colonists, in order to evade the required tax, never registered* 

These fraudulent liberations have been clearly defined and highlighted by 
historian Gabriel Debien in his work on the subject. Destiny of the Mar¬ 
tinique Slave*** 

It is still a difficult task to discern their numbers. For the masters the 
problem was to liberate their better slaves or to Jet them liberate themselves 
while at the same time eluding the many formal requirements of the admin¬ 
istration which, for reasons of high policy related to color, intended to con¬ 
trol at all times the number of freedmen. 

They did not notarize their grants of freedom, filed no declaration with 
the local administration. Thus they avoided the waiting* the annoyances, the 
refusals and the expense. Therefore one cannot learn from official records 
the number of manumissions or rather the “liberations”—a term often used 
to distinguish this de facto liberty from legal emancipation; the liberated are 
considerably more numerous than the freedmen. , , . 

This unofficial freedom is granted * * * to occasional overage workers as a 
reward for their services, perhaps to nearly all* * * . At sixty a slave no longer 
earned the cost of head tax. Aged domestics, veteran sugar-mill workers, 
field hands al] seemed to be liberated in the same fashion, ». * 

Is it still to be believed then that the illegitimate children of the colonists 
could have comprised a majority in that imposing mass of free people of 
every order disseminated in the cities and especially in the countryside where 
for all purposes they escape all controls: skilled workers; itinerant merchants; 
small businessmen; plantation agents {iconomes ); managers; drivers; militia¬ 
men; proprietors of jar dins a vivre and of coffee plantations in the mountains, 
indigo plantations, cattle pens, and rum factories in the plains? With respect 
to the ratio of blacks and mulattoes in the composition of the freedmen’s class 
whatever the final conclusions, they boil down in the end to the statement by 
Boissonade.' ,a 

Actually, in Saint-Dominguc there were only two classes or castes dis¬ 
tinctly separated on the basis of ethnic origin: on the one hand the white 
people and on the other the blacks* 

Or more precisely we wall end up with the prudent and realistic definition 
of the freedmen applied by Moreau de Saint-Mery, that great eyewitness 

Inquiry on the Freedmen's Class 213 

observer of Saint-Domingue: “By enfranchised I mean all who are neither 
white nor slave.** 7 

Whenever masters specified skin color, descriptions of runaways or of 
the capture of Maroons can help to provide new light for those who choose 
to dwell on such detail. Would it serve to accentuate the ridiculousness of 
these arguments about skin color if we were to point out that in Byzantium 
they went us one better—arguing at length about the gender of the angels?* 
Saint-Mery was the first to propose the existence of an intermediate class 
among the enfranchised. And it is to him we owe the classification of “white 
males,” depending upon whether they were married to whites, mixed-bloods 
or blacks. These latter were the “mi sal lied” constituting an intermediate 
class between the whites, and the colored to which “they belonged by virtue 
of their alliance,” Among the enfranchised themselves, seniority of emancipa¬ 
tion and a rather light skin color represented “prerogatives invoked at least 
in secret,” so much so that, on the basis of degree of skin color, one could 
in such an experience end up with “thirteen distinct classes,” 

It is for these easily understood reasons that Saint-Mery and the colonial 
historians did not attempt to perpetuate such an elastic, fragile and diversi¬ 
fied classification. Nevertheless one cannot fail to note the existence of a con¬ 
siderable number of freedmen on the edge of the law who, in practice, no 
longer lived as slaves, but who had not been officially manumitted. Wish it or 
not, they must, from our humble point of view, be counted among the latter. 
However sub rosa, their status nevertheless, was that of dc facto freedmen. 
Who are the representatives of these groups of the free or the liberated? 
Saint-Mery describes them thus: 

I must explain that among the slaves there are also people of every shade 
of color. Almost invariably it is the mulattoes who are selected as domestic 

These slaves consider themselves superior to the free blacks because they 
are closer to the Whites by virtue of their lighter color. In their manners, 
they are, after a fashion, another class midway between slavery and enfran¬ 
chisement, or rather between an extremely benevolent slavery and the tacit 
liberation enjoyed’ by many slaves of every eolor who, whether by their mas¬ 
ters* grace, or because they had bought their freedom, or whether finally 
because the public administration closed its eyes, were considered freed¬ 
men though they were not so in £act. ES 

To Saint-Mery’s designations of these special freedmen, the Maroons are 
to be added. We come back to them and for good reason. Some of them 
took to the woods and disappeared in the maquis, where they joined various 
bands. To repeat, there was no tally kept of them; they were fugitives who 

* ft is said that in 1453 when the Turkish artillery was emplaced before the gates of 

Constantinople and being prepared for bombarding the city the Byzantine monks 
calmly walked the ramparts discussing the sex of angels. 


disappeared, la contrast, there also existed—these were perhaps the greatest 
in number—Maroons who secretly enjoyed freedom in faraway districts or 
even in the environs of the cities. They claimed to be free, and as proof, they 
exhibited false papers from their masters declaring them to be “on commis¬ 
sion,” “on patrol,” or else “free papers” (billets de liberte). 

Many of these were “skilled workers” (n£gres a talents ). They boasted 
a trade and, thanks to the complicity of white proprietors or freedmen who 
utilized their services, they at length attained the benefit of a sort of stipula¬ 
tion designating them, in effect, free. According to the notary Hilliard 
D'Auberteuil, there were five thousand of these just in the Cap region alone, 59 

Father Gabon confirmed the existence of numerous fugitives “living by 
their wits, bearing arms so as to look like free people , , * ; not only men, 
but also women thus assume their liberty, the latter finding no difficulty in 
setting up a household at some distant location,” 00 

In this way men and women disappeared or were lost and confounded 
in distant cantons, leaving no traces. In fact, these were people who enjoyed 
a relative freedom. They exercised their trades, collected a salary, hired out 
or refused their services, and were not narrowly constrained by any schedule 
or by the work rules of slavery. In a word, they were free to dispose of 
their person and their skills. How else could you describe them except than as 
liberated? And can we ignore these growing numbers of organized and tol¬ 
erated fugitives who carved out a relatively assured freedom if d’Auberteuii 
places them at five thousand just in the Cap area, no doubt including them 
with the enfranchised? The numbers are important. Thus, grafted onto the 
freedmen’s class there appeared an important segment of quasi-liberated, of 
liberated, overage, tolerated fugitives, and others who certainly no longer had 
slave status nor its legal condition. In practice they were free in their move¬ 
ments, worked for a salary, had property rights. It was an enormous prole¬ 
tariat, apparently more numerous than the enfranchised mulattoes and free 

We will exclude from this number the slaves who enjoyed a freedom 
known as liberte de savane * These constituted a special case. The slave 
who enjoyed liberte de savane was still a slave. His liberty was strictly rela¬ 
tive. But the others, the unregistered emancipated, and the imposing numbers 
of freedmen enjoyed the advantages of person and property. It is quite con¬ 
ceivable that many of them were able by the fruits of their labor to pay the 
registration cost that the master who freed them chose not to pay so as to 
avoid expenses or difficulties. We yield to the evidence that there was more 
than just the matter of payments to be made. One had to deal with adminis¬ 
trative red tape and unforeseen circumstances of every nature, 01 which, in 
planned difficulties and discouragements, constituted that barrier which Pro¬ 
fessor Debien has called the “high policy of color in an administration that 
meant always to control the number of enfranchisements.” 02 

Doubtless, this color policy flowed via secret instructions from Paris and 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 215 

was firmed up in support of the regime and the security of the colony, with 
the tacit agreement of the colonists. Besides, the latter had no recourse other 
than to submit to the refusals without explanation or to the deliberate delays 
which more elegantly indicated this negative response of the colonial ad¬ 

Colonists were not often known to protest the obstructions. They ignored 
them and quickly contented themselves with the growth of this mass of the 
liberated forming an “intermediary class” between enslaved and enfran¬ 
chised, as Moreau de Saint-Mery described them. Neither the administration 
nor the colonists had any interest whatever in making official the free status 
of the ,l quasi-liberated,” Because of this, the freedman’s class continued to 
drag along as an appendix a considerable proletariat. On one side there was 
the legal segment and on the other the real base, moving along cheek by 
jowl with no danger of the fusion which “the high policy of color” aimed to 
prevent at any cost.* 3 Why? Simply because the base, this proletariat, this 
real segment was in very large majority composed of the dark-skinned. This 
then explains why the administration, which knew the situation intimately, 
made no move to require the colonists to officially document tacit manumis¬ 
sions; this certainly would have enriched the public coffers and made possible 
a great amount of useful public works without in any appreciable way chang¬ 
ing the free status of the beneficiaries. The administration preferred not to 
consider such a useless and expensive bluff and to ignore infractions com¬ 
mitted openly by all. It chose also to complicate any possibility of solution 
by imposing exhausting formalities, by uncompromising refusal of “so-called 
unjustified enfranchisements”—actions by which the blacks especially were 
victimized as though by chance. 

There was also the continued increase in the tax on enfranchisement 
which again, as if by chance, especially handicapped the liberated blacks, 
while mulattoes continued to benefit from acts of recognition and manu¬ 
mission by their white fathers. Both Mr, Rohan and Mr, Bongars provide 
cases in point: “During the two years wc have been here (it was then 1768} 
a resident of Leogane freed some thirty mulattoes almost all of them his 

Of the very light skinned blacks in the parishes of Jaemel, Cayes-Jacmel, 
and Fonds, the percentage of illegitimate children recognized by white fathers 
throughout the eighteenth century is 55 percent 64 of the total births declared 
on parish registers. 

Let us try to get to the bottom of things to uncover the secret designs of 
the administration and the hidden goals of that “high policy of color.” An 
eventual legal recognition of the numerical superiority of blacks within and 
dominating the freedmen’s class would shock the colonial mentality and its 
prejudices as well as oppose the higher interests of the colonial system. The 
liberated blacks found themselves much closer to the slaves than to the 
mulattoes, these latter being in a position to be partially claimed by masters. 


a bit of whose blood they bore through birth* Further, these blacks practiced 
some minor craft, were salaried workers and, in brief, were a community 
of the needy, slaving away and hard up* Few among them possessed the 
attributes and the prestige of their masters* Unlike the true enfranchised, they 
were not proprietors of coffee plantations in the hills or of plantations serv¬ 
iced by slaves* If, by virtue of their economic cvolvement and their status as 
propertied persons, the emancipated blacks or mulattoes might one day 
find their interests intermingled with those of the white masters, they re¬ 
mained nonetheless Ubires, economically weak and, because of this, more 
inclined in any future social upheaval to go along with the slave* 

From the point of view of color, this was the major objection* The result 
was the ostracism in which liberes were systematically held and the per¬ 
manent barrier to a fusion that would swamp the mulatto group perched 
atop the class of freedmen with free blacks relegated to the lower ranks, 
whatever their seniority in terms of enfranchisement* Hilliard d’Aubcrteuil 
proposed “to marry every free black to a mulattress and every mulatto to a 
free black woman" He envisioned a “high yellow’* class which thenceforth 
would prevent “blacks in marronage from calling themselves free,” a class 
of people “even further removed from the negro type than they have been 
up to present times*" A class of legalized freedmen dominated by blacks 
would have been a class stronger in numbers than that of the whites, up¬ 
setting the balance of power, enjoying more or less extended social advan¬ 
tages, inundating the militia with multiple and ceaseless waves of recruits 
likely to contaminate the slaves by giving them an inopportune image of the 
possibilities of a general uprising* 

The colonists held always before them the nearby example of the eastern 
sector, where an uncontrolled policy of liberation and a life commonly shared 
by Spanish master and slave in open promiscuity had resulted in the loss of 
all disciplines, in a generalized insolence, and in the notorious underdevelop¬ 
ment of that part of the island of Sainfc-Domingue* 

The mulatto existed* He was an accident of a passing passion {accident 
de parconrs) triggered by the absence of white women as well as by the 
search for new sensual pleasures in the arms of the last remaining roucou- 
colored Indians or of the young attractive black woman embodying in her 
harmony of form the firmness and grace of sculptured ebony* These bastard 
mulattoes numbered five hundred in 1703* At the turn of the century there 
would be twenty, thirty times as many, perhaps more already liberated. There 
could be no question of returning them to slavery—it was already too late— 
nor of exporting them; they were too many, and, besides, how and in what 
direction would this uprooting and transfer be effected? Nor could they be 
relegated to the mountains as was proposed from time to time over the 
years as this rapid increase w r as noted with alarm* In short, there remained 
no solution other than to organize this class of freedmen in such a way as to 
guarantee mulatto supremacy* A number of factors served to recommend this 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 217 

policy to the view of the colonists whose eyes were fixed on the single scale 
value in the colonial hierarchy: Color. After all, the mulatto’s skin color 
was closer to that of the white than was the color of the liberated or free 
black. Between mulatto and white and especially in the small parishes there 
was a certain rapprochement in their social circles, not to mention the cus¬ 
tomary liaisons with mulatto women so avidly sought by libertine whites.* 5 
These people of color enjoyed greater access to education and held a more 
solid economic standing than did their darker brothers. In short, colonial 
strategy in this regard was based on a complex of prejudices, individual weak¬ 
nesses, and consequences encouraged and supported by the whites. 

This class of freedmen was desirable as a buffer group and as an image 
of the advantages to which, for the most part, the slaves could aspire follow¬ 
ing the example of these mixed-Woods who, despite the “superiority” of 
their color, by the very fact of the irradicable imprint of their origin had to 
conduct themselves with servility in the presence of the masters. Though 
free, they were nevertheless subjected, with not too much tolerance, to the 
well-defined and providential supremacy of the white man. 

In the mind of the colonist, the mulatto was to be more than anything 
else a guinea pig, called upon to attest to that superiority. This is the true 
spirit and secret design of the cumulative laws “making it illegal to , . 
which, in spite of enfranchisement, never failed to associate the freedmen 
with the slaves or to refuse citizen’s status with full privileges to the former. 
The use of the mulatto for this purpose is dearly indicated in a document 
cited by Moreau dc Saint-Mery in his Notes Historiques. In it, we see re¬ 
vealed a double specter: the perpetual prison envisioned for the slave and 
the condemnation of the people of color, trapped by the indelible stain of 
their birth and the scorn for African blood: 

It is essentia! to keep far apart one from the other the kind that commands 
and that which obeys. One of the surest means of effecting this is the per¬ 
petuating of the stamp once imprinted by slavery. In this way the mixture of 
races wall certainly occur less frequently. 80 

In addition, so they thought, respect for and acceptance of the master 
would be strengthened first and above all on the basis of his color. In the 
colonial Assembly, Mr. Poucignon explained with less circumlocution the 
precise goal envisioned for the class of freedmen. 

Slavery [he declared] can only be maintained by the innate sense among 
blacks of the superiority of the white race. But in order to keep this moral 
force more powerful, more effective than phyical force we must have a class 
of freedmen. Furthermore it is essential that the descendants of these freed¬ 
men resulting from continual intercourse with whites be allowed to share in 
the exercise of political rights only to the degree that their skin color cannot 
evoke significant communication with the crude senses of the slave.* 7 


In effect* the plan was to use the colored people as a local force, despite 
the “vice of their birth/* They nursed a special animosity against the poor 
whites who begrudged them their place in the sun, competing with them in 
the trades, the shops and as pcddlars. This deep jealousy, it was said, would 
be very useful in containing internal turbulence even* when occasionally 
needed* in turning the freedmen against the poor whites. There w F as also the 
matter of recruiting volunteer battalions for military expeditions, the mulatto 
being, in the mind of the colonial, suitable for all kinds of jobs. He was used 
freely* in return receiving only derisive favors full of restrictions and prohibi¬ 
tions, And here again, in the organization of the Saint-Domingue Militia, this 
major concern with separation by skin color. There comes to mind the 
famous ordinance of Count d*Estaing, mandating a perpetual state of alert* 
with colonists armed to the teeth and militias organized according to the 
colonial scale of skin color. 

Each colonist is required to have at all times a gun, bayonet, powder 
sack, saber, machete or sword, four pounds of powder, and twelve pounds of 
shot. Militias will be composed of the various estates of the colony including 
all the misallied, the mixed blacks designated as quadroons, mulaiioes, grilles 
and free blacks. AH these classes will form companies distinguished one from 
the other by the estates and the color of the citizens composing them.* 8 

The ideal would have been to limit their number, the better to keep the 
enfranchised under control. Attempts were made to prohibit manumissions, 
sometimes to limit them, at other times to control them by tedious verifica¬ 
tion of registrations. These efforts* however, were short lived. They were all 
doomed to failure, given the perpetual temptation of black and light-skinned 
women who* on their perfumed, garlanded beds, daily won the battle of 
equality, thwarting colonial policy in the passion of tropical settings and the 
extraordinary' libertine behavior for which Saint-Domingue was the theater/ 19 
Thus the colonist dug his own grave with his penis. 

The smile of the dark and the light-skinned women continued to control 
and to strip the colonial gears. By illegitimate births, through favors and 
grants of freedom extracted amid grateful sighs on straw matting, in mahog¬ 
any beds, or in alcoves* the increase in freedmen gathered momentum and 
consolidated itself. 

At Versailles* the evidence that the laws were inoperative was already 
accepted. To Governor de Rohan, the king suggested his preference for “the 
barrier of customs’* over legislative measures. These laws or barriers of 
custom were but so much sand carried off on the winds of sexual license. 
The impressive number of black and mulatto women set free—had this per¬ 
haps been noted? In a sample of manumission declarations for 9 June 1793 
—and this is but one of numerous examples—there were fifty-two women 
and only 19 men. How then can the conclusion be avoided that considerably 

Inquiry on the Freed men’s Class 219 

earlier than the Revolution the number of even the registered and recognized 
freedmen largely exceeded that of the whites? 

Statistics on manumission were, in addition, deliberately falsified with 
respect to ratio between classes. One is led to ask the reason for such trickery. 
Several hypotheses immediately suggest themselves. Could it have been the 
behavior of the ostrich refusing to face reality? Might it have been, on the 
part of the colonial administration, the dissembling of a setback in the appli¬ 
cation of a policy enunciated at Versailles? Or could it have been the avoid¬ 
ance of indicating to the freedmen the size of their forces in valid figures? By 
no means are these questions and answers yet sufficient. Lucien Paytraud, 
who describes having found very few legal manumissions in the Archives de 
France, states positively that of 845 enfranchisements in 1785, only 108 had 
been granted without fraud. 

The number of declared manumissions dropped from 845 in 1785, to a 
mere 297 in 1791, with the same colonial sources admitting the existence of 
twenty-four hundred enfranchised in 1790 and from twenty-six to twenty- 
eight hundred in 1791, an accretion of some two to four thousand. The 
declared births for the period cannot of course account for the enormous dif¬ 
ference between 297 and two thousand or four thousand from one year to 
another. There are, in addition, other suspect motives behind the avoidance 
of official declarations of manumissions. For the 297 manumissions an¬ 
nounced by the administration, 547,892 livres were credited to the Manu¬ 
missions Account {Caisse des Libertes ), while this same caisse, which was 
fed only by enfranchisements, was able in the same year to dispense 651,354 
livres, and this without adversely affecting the important projects for which 
it specifically was responsible: improving pier embankments, the king’s 
gardens, public fountains, watering troughs, public washrooms, and so on. 10 

It is possible that the continued practice of false declarations of the 
number of annual enfranchisements concealed not only irregular and clan¬ 
destine grants and the very large bribes shared by the responsible function¬ 
aries, but that they also covered the imperatives of a more general policy 
enunciated by the Metropole and with which the colonial administration 
faithfully complied in its own way by occasionally greasing palms. Lepclletier 
de Saint-Remy mentions “deliberately erroneous figures," and Beaubrun 
Ardouin accuses “the colonial government of regularly falsifying the freed¬ 
men and slave populations in order not to give any of the enlightened among 
them the means of learning their true numbers.” 71 

The barrier constantly hurdled by means of fraud and financial intrigue 
was the same elsewhere in the neighboring colonics, where, now and again, 
there were denouncements of “the abuse of enfranchisements in fact or in law” 
and of slaves who “obtain their liberty at reduced price due to their intel¬ 
ligence.” A letter from Barbados, dated 25 July 1787 and published in 
Affiches Americaines called for a very heavy tax on manumissions “as in 
Martinique where enfranchisements solicited in a succession of liaisons inimi- 


cal to public morality (bonnes moeurs ) are very heavily taxed—a thousand 
gourdes and more for a single slave and as much for each child/' In addition 
to the constant tax increase in Saint-Domingue, there was, from time to time, 
the threat to seize all irregular freedmen. The newspapers publicized this 
threatened action: 

There are many slaves whose masters intend to free them but who are 
not actually free. Slaves unaccounted for or who pretend to be free without 
having been manumitted with all the formalities prescribed by the regulations 
shall be sold for the king’s coffers or sent back to their work gang. 72 

These threats were short-lived. Censuses continued to be falsified or to 
reveal great increases in nondeclaration in every parish. No longer was there 
even the attempt to hide the facts. Quite openly, the mass of irregular freed¬ 
men moved about on the fringes of the large cities, coming and going as if 
they were beneficiaries of an official regulation acceptable alike to colonist 
and administration. A new and short-lived attempt, as brutal as it was use¬ 
less, was that of the General Assembly of Saint-Marc which, by the decree 
of 4 June 1790, “provisionally suspends enfranchisements: marriages be¬ 
tween slaves and free people . • . reserves to itself the examination of re¬ 
quests for granting freedom through acts or wiUs. ,,7a 

What possible ends could this new proscription serve? From that mo¬ 
ment events were already in motion in the wake of the dramatic internal 
divisions among the disunited colonists, between colonist and freedmen, be¬ 
tween master and slave in constant and progressive rebellion. The progress 
of the high policy of color continued under extreme mobility, tossed about, 
jostled, turning like a weathervanc, aligning itself, borne slowly and surely 
upon the winds of revolt and by contradictory imperatives. At one time the 
colonists almost had to beg for the support of the freedmen, reminding them 
that they, like the whites, were slave owners. In their climb toward equality 
the freedmen would adopt a similarly sordid rationale. At times there would 
be threats against those enfranchised accused, and not without reason, of 
inciting the slaves to rebellion and supplying arms to rebel Maroon bands. 
Again, and finally, there w r ould be need to remind the enfranchised: “These 
Africans whose blood flows through your veins, are they not men?” or to 
adjure the blacks “never to forget that the arms with which you regained 
your liberty were provided by mulattocs/’ 

By the light of flames which ravaged the northern parishes, this flirtation 
with the enfranchised became even bolder. Incarcerated mulattoes and free 
blacks—even those linked to the uprising by Oge and Chavanne and con¬ 
demned in absentia—beneflttcd from a general amnesty throughout the par¬ 
ishes, The colonist stroked the feathers of the freedmen. When the first 
moment of stupor had passed, he opened his arms to those who, in light of 
the generalized revolt of the slaves, represented the only possible support. 
The first reaction had clearly been one of prudence and of understandable 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 221 

and legitimate suspicion. On 25 August the order had been issued "that all 
blacks and mulattoes were to remain indoors/* They had been informed that 
the Church of the Ursuline Nuns in Cap had been made available to them as 
a sanctuary {residence surveiUi) * 74 Then the General Assembly had chosen 
to soft-pedal its resentment and suspicions. For survival it was important to 
join hands with the devil. Thus we see the colonists dangling before the 
eyes of the enfranchised the lure of epaulets and stripes. And we become 
eyewitnesses of that extraordinary event of colonial life: the colonists them¬ 
selves for the first time offering the mass of the pseudoenfranchised and ail 
that teeming proletariat of liberated blacks, free so long in expectation, to 
change their status from pseudo to official freedmen. This fusion of the 
freed men’s class so long cut off from its proletariat was finally envisaged and 
implemented. One has to believe that the peril was indeed gravely menacing 
for the colonists to be moved to renounce so categorically the very basis of 
the “high policy of color/’ 

The fact is, the General Assembly, in its sessions of 4 October and 12 
October, adopted the following motions: 

ARTICLE 1, There shall be created a provisional corps composed of free 
men of color, 

ARTICLE 2. AU free men of color will be eligible for membership therein. 75 
ARTICLE 3. Equally eligible will be all people of color who for want of 
certification enjoy only a precarious freedom, 

ARTICLE 4. For the purpose of providing such people the means to obtain 
this certification without cost, freedmen who have not had 
their liberty ratified will be able to acquire the same perma¬ 
nently without cost or tax by serving two years in the said 
corps at the end of which time their service shall have been 

ARTICLE 5, Officers' ranks shall be filled by men of color who are owners 
of property and born of free parents. 

The colonist Denard who defended this project and determined the vote 
of the Assembly had previously made certain suggestive statements which, 
with considerable cleverness, condemned the policy of color fragmentation 
of a single class. 

Yesterday you w r ere told beware awakening these men, they are dormant, 
let them be. But, gendemen, these men are no longer asleep. For two years 
they have not slept. Their constant goal is the amelioration of their lot. It is 
by no means their claim to an epaulet that will ruin ihe colony. If you do 
not register these men with as much confidence as the others you Insult 
them, by excluding them from the benefits and burdens of society you scorn 
them. In forming the corps it is absolutely necessary to meld the [unofficial] 
freedmen with the genuinely free and not to distinguish them by color since 
they are all included in the same circle, 79 


Sonthonax publicly announced that “to be a national guardsman one 
need only be free," noting at the same time that “free status must be estab¬ 
lished by title or common knowledge. This latter type of proof is equivalent 
to and takes the place of all titles. Every National Guardsman irrespective of 
color can be made an officer.” 71 

Alarmed by the continued desertions of slaves in the West and then in 
the North, where “three-quarters were fleeing the flaming plain,” the authori¬ 
ties in the threatened parishes ensured the regroupment of the freedmen’s 
class as a possible shield. As for the free mulattoes and blacks in the militia, 
their seniority rights, a virtual monopoly of officers’ ranks, were no longer 
recognized. This privilege was extended even to those only reputedly free 
and lacking certification. In a special proclamation, Blanchelande reminded 
this class of their stake in putting aside for the moment alt their other 

Can you in the midst of the distress and the armed tumult ask us to 
concern ourselves with your special interests? Ah! Even were you at this 
moment to gain all you desire, of what use such a victory if, for want of 
having joined your energies against a common enemy as formidable to you 
as to the whites, the complete ruin of the French area of Saint-Domingue 
were achieved? Is it your desire to take these rights by force and to profit 
from the general distress to have them confirmed? Moreover, do you not see 
that should you profit from it you will be accused of being instigators of the 
slave insurrection, and agitators behind the atrocious crimes they commit? 
• , . What, those same work gangs whom you vaunted before the General 
Assembly as alone being capable of suppressing the insubordination, would 
it be you who would turn them against their masters, command them to 
devastation, murder and arson? 7 * 

One is frankly moved to laughter at this fool’s bargain tendered the 
freedmen. They were, in short, offered the fusion of their class, an offer that 
shocked the pretentious and egotistic black and mulatto elite, the right to 
strut about in dolmans bedizened with stripes and epaulets, to engage in 
combat on condition that they leave behind as hostages their wives, their 
children and possessions, renouncing for the time being all other claims. 
For their silence or treason, they would be paid off in lip service. The high 
policy of color, however, was by no means at the end of its nauseating, hypo¬ 
critical maneuverings nor of its cumulative changes. In 1793, the term en¬ 
franchised designated exclusively the mulattoes. Free Negroes who w r ere 
part of the class were associated with the newly free. Grouping by color was 

The liberated slave called himself a cultivator, and his former command¬ 
ers [drivers] were designated by the amiable appellation “Conductors of 
labor.” Most of the Negro farmers were hired by contract renewable by the 
year and were assigned to cultivation and to the sugar mills from sunrise to 

Inquiry on the Freedmen's Class 223 

sunset. The whip was suppressed and replaced by the rod and the reduction 
or voidance of salary. Black women had the temerity to claim equal salaries 
with men, and this initial feminist demand was listened to with only half an 
ear and drowned in considerations about inequality in physical strength, habit¬ 
ual or periodic illnesses, pregnancies, childbirth and nursing. The men took 
off Saturdays and Sundays “wishing,” in the words of Polverel, “to test, so 
to speak, their liberty and to assure themselves it is not a dream.” The young 
impetuous Commissioner Sonthonax was himself a mesalUi. He lived pub¬ 
licly with a mulatto woman, the beautiful Eugenie Rlejac, whom he dreamt 
of marrying. Thomas Madiou 50 even stated that Sonthonax married this 
young lady of color, whose mother, Rose Blejac, was "well known” in Jcr£- 
mie, a phrase that speaks volumes. The commissioner, perhaps sincerely, 
astutely played the game of the liberated black masses* Like Polverel, he 
dared to affirm, 

* # * that they are the strongest: Formerly you were given barely enough 
clothes to keep you from dying—there was no interest, no sacrifices for the 
health and cleanliness of your quarters nor for the little comforts of your 
household. The produce from your gardens was for each of you a supple¬ 
mentary resource for meeting the needs which they [the masters] wished 
neither to see nor satisfy. Today slavers and cannibals are no more, * * . 
Nature made you free and it is Nature that has made you equal with those 
who call themselves your masters, . . * You are the strongest, . . * 81 

In a final attempt to save a henceforth condemned regime, this flirtation, 
now with the muiattoes, again with the newly liberated, helped after a fashion 
to maintain the division. Some of the old colonists who were rooted for half 
a century in colonial life took flight* A Mr. Tapiau regretfully “leaves for 
France after forty-eight years in the colony,” declaring that he would return 
next year if all were peaceful, 82 

In the press, longtime masters advertised for “white servants.” Forget¬ 
ting the past, the Gazette des Cayes fulminated against the English who, like 
the cruel Spaniards in the days of Hispaniola, “still used dogs trained to track 
down the unfortunates whom despite the cry of Nature and the generous 
example of the French they continue to treat as beings of an inferior class*” 83 
Thus this sudden burgeoning love for the Negroes* Oh, how they were 
wooed from this time forward, the better to lull them to sleep! And how 
pleasant an image and how suddenly the union of the classes took on the 
appeasing image of a tricolored rainbow! 

From Paris a colonial landowner issued this impassioned appeal for a 
triple entente: 

It took the abolition of black slavery to make us realize its futility. . . , 
Let us deliver ourselves into the embrace of our new fellow citizens. Let us 
form with them and with those in whose veins our blood is mingled with 


the blood of Africa a triple bond which the devil of discord must despair of 
severing. It will be fitting to offer the universe the spectacle of a family as 
interesting for its union as for the varied colors nature has sown among the 
members who compose it, * « , 84 

That appeal comes from Larchevesque-Thibaud, the popular attorney 
whose sterling qualities were vaunted in Cap in unforgettable ditties. 

Oh, now 'tis a bishop they'll send 
In truth, an “archbishop'* should lend 
For us, he'd be hell, an eveque 
Our good luck if indeed Larchevesque, 8 * 

No one was taken in by the enticements of these poisonous sirens. * - * 
Polvercl, more the realist, had understood the futility of all deceit: 

Two years of war against the insurgent Africans convinced the proprie¬ 
tors that henceforth it was impossible to maintain slavery. The work gangs 
were nonexistent, their homes or plantations burned or devastated. France 
was being drained of men and money while its armies were being wiped out 
in Saint-Domingue by African forces Increased daily by desertions from 
the work gangs, 80 

It was no longer difficult to perceive that the Africans remained unre¬ 
sponsive to the continuous wave of congeniality and endearments. Marron- 
age increasingly took the form of massive desertions and organized, armed 
rebellions. It was not without reason that the authorities brutally attacked 
Voodoo, abandoning the verbiage and sterile deceits aimed at simpletons 
(bouquis) who were now “philosophers”, knives between their teeth when 
not carrying slung rifles. 

The document we subsequently present at length confirms, should there 
be such a need, the political character of the Voodoo gatherings after the 
Ceremony of Bois-Caunan, during the course of which Maroons, under the 
pretext of the dance, organized the rebellion, established necessary liaisons 
with the work gangs, distributed arms and issued passwords. Thus it is in 
this sense that this popular religion which in itself rested on no precise ideal 
of liberty can be linked with all slave resistance and with the struggle for 
liberty. This is an undeniable historic fact with all deference to certain authors 
who, like M. Debbasch, for example, have accused the Haitian school of 
drifting into romantic assertions without foundation. There is in this charge 
an inexplicable misunderstanding. In an earlier study 5t we affirmed what 
we now repeat and will continue to repeat, that secret Voodoo rites provided 
singularly effective means of action and facilitated important secret meetings 
and a network of communications among various work gangs. Finally, they 
created an atmosphere of panic favorable to rebellions. 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 225 

While the priests used the Christian religion and the threat of eternal 
damnation to combat niarronagc, Voodoo priests were selling amulets that 
made fugitive slaves invulnerable. It was in Voodoo meetings that two hum* 
dred blacks from Corail, a dependency of Marmdadc, frequently assembled 
to be instructed by the mulatto Jerome, who preached independence while 
distributing leaded batons (batons ferres) and cabalistic objects. That was 
in 1786* Earlier there had been Francois MacandaL Later there would be 
Boukman, Polydor, or Romaine la Prophetessc* Were they not also Voodoo 
experts as were Halaou, Courlonge, Macaya, Jeannot, Guiambois, Carreau, 
Dcspinvillc, Jcan-Pincau, Jacinthe or Candy? We doubt that any of the 
essayists who deny the effect of Voodoo on the series of revolts which shat¬ 
tered the regime will be able to refute the following, previously mentioned 
document. It was in fact the colonial administration that recognized the 
aggravated danger to public safety posed by indecent spectacles: 

Extract of the Minutes of the Commission delegated by the French Govern¬ 
ment in the Leeward Islands. The commission, informed that dangerous 
assemblies known as Vaudou are continuing despite the prohibitions levied 
by the constituted authorities; 

Whereas the object of this dance seems to be the incitement of ideas inimical 
to a republican government, and 

Whereas perfidious men may, under pretext of seemingly innocent amuse- 
ent, abuse the good faith of citizens who with no ill intention indulge therein, 

Whereas the dance known as Vaudou is antagonistic to good morals, to 
Republican institutions, to decency, to the very health of the participants in 
these scandalous scenes; that frightful oaths, which if carried out can com¬ 
promise public safety, are taken upon the direction of the presiders at these 
ridiculous yet frightful orgies, always followed by prostitution; that these 
infamies are carried on under the eyes of the young, even of children w f ho, 
for shame, are admitted to a spectacle as disgusting as It is pernicious to 
their education; 

The commission has decreed and does hereby decree the following: 

Art. L Vaudou Dance gatherings arc strictly forbidden. 

Art. 2. Any citizen apprehended in such dances shall be arrested and suffer a 
month’s imprisonment. 

Art. 3. Individuals who permit their homes to be used for such gatherings, and 
those in charge shall be arrested and suffer three months imprisonment and 
a fine of one hundred pounds. 

Art. 4. The civil and military authorities of the Colony are charged with the 
diligent execution of this decree, in the cities and throughout the country¬ 

The present decree shall be printed, sent to all civil and military authorities, 
transcribed in the registers of the administrative corps, and posted every¬ 
where as needed. 


Enacted in Cap* the first of Frimaire, fifth year of the French Republic, 
one and indivisible. 

Signed in the minute book, Leblanc, president; Sonthonax, Raimond, com¬ 
missioners; Pascal, secretary general 

Could one wish for a single last characteristic typical of the curious contra¬ 
dictions that accompany the agony of the regime? 

With the news of the disaster afflicting Saint-Domingue the representa¬ 
tives of the United Cities of Commerce and the Colonics, the high bourgeois 
of the French slave ports called for urgent help, consisting specifically of 
ten vessels from two to three hundred tons for the West and an equal amount 
for the North loaded with flour, wine, biscuit, vegetables, ironwork, coarse 
linen, four thousand men and six hundred laborers, an advance of 120 mil¬ 
lions to restore the burned out plantations, towns and wharves and the 
purchase of twelve thousand blacks at twenty-five hundred livres a# plus ten 
thousand mules, goats and cattle and two hundred farm tools. This said, 
those fleshy merchants who for two centuries from father to son fattened on 
the sweat of the slave awaited, mouth agape, for a new gift of manna to fall 
conveniently from heaven. . , , 

At the same time, the Gazette des Cayes denounced: 

The little maudlin masters who full of conceit live on perfumes and 
who instead of sharing service with their fellow citizens and appearing when 
sorties against the enemy are necessary remain by the side of their little 
mistresses who at the mere mention of the word equality suffer a heart 
attack. . * 

How could they completely escape that trap, the seduction by the dis¬ 
turbing black and light-skinned women of Saint-Doiningue? 

The minister and his assistants had only to affirm the failure of their 
high policy of color. On all sides it was shattered, torn to shreds, the rents 
long and obvious. It was only with difficulty that one could discern its final 
tremors in the midst of all these turnabouts. We will however have shown in 
different periods and in their mobility {mouvance) the apparent constants 
uncovered in that high policy of color. It is the same policy that Hcdouville 
would revive at the approach of the war in the South in a vain attempt to 
stem the rising tide of Independence. It is the same policy with its dramatic 
sequels, which for so long at so many crossroads in our history' has raised in 
the Haitian community the macabre specter of divisions and hatreds based 
on these hypocrisies of the skin. 

And to think that these fratricidal clashes, the bloodshed, so many tears, 
so much mourning count for so little! Might it not be that the simple tempta¬ 
tion of the imprint of a black nipple protruding from a multicolored blouse 
was, in the beginning, at the root of these misfortunes that have continued 
to weigh heavily upon our evolution? 

Inquiry on the Frcedmcn’s Class 227 

Although stemming from previous considerations, one final question con¬ 
cerning the freed men's class will carry us more directly to the heart of this 
study dedicated to marronage, What was the real position of the freedmen 
with respect to fugitive slave flights? Did they encourage desertions, and 
were they involved? The answer is both yes and no. The most obvious fact 
in the “descriptions” is that enfranchised proprietors, mulattoes, and free 
Negroes were considerably less frequently than whites the victims of mar¬ 
ronage, and by far. As a matter of fact, despite the rapid growth of the 
freedmeifs class the whites continued to own more than 75 percent of the 
wealth of Saint-Domingue and therefore of the plantations and slaves. It is 
doubtful that on the eve of the Revolution the freedmen owned in land and 
slaves, manufactures, or plantations that 25 percent of the colonial wealth 
it has been customary to attribute to them. This would in part explain the 
disproportion in the described loss of slaves. 

Another hypothesis could be based on the fact that freedmen proprietors 
lived somewhat removed, in the small parishes, and on coffee plantations, in 
the mountains. Handicapped by the long distances and bad conditions of the 
roads, they may have neglected to have their fugitive advertisements sent to 
the newspapers of Cap and Port-au-Prince. 

Besides, for an attempt so often futile these fugitive advertisements were 
rather expensive according to the rates approved by the administrators, 
Vincent and Barbc de Marbois: First publication of three lines of type or 
less, three livres and thirty sols for each subsequent priming; for a first print¬ 
ing of any notice of more than three lines, twenty sols per line and ten sols 
per line for each subsequent publication. 

In the long run we can rather safely believe that freedmen treated their 
slaves more humanely and that the case of the fierce, pitiless griffe Jean-Bap- 
tiste Lapointe or of the free Negro who was a cruel master to Dcssalines, then 
a slave, did not throughout the colonial period negate a rather meaningful 
solidarity ultimately reinforced by political interest, with the requirement of a 
mutual safety dominating unilateral interests. This was the inevitable coali¬ 
tion based on blood, but much later. During colonization this solidarity was 
real in the context of individual relationships but not as the overall behavior 
of the freed men’s class, 

Freedmen and their slaves “intuitively drew nearer to each other forming 
a mass,” wrote Gabriel Debicn. 01 In this regard two extracts from Saint- 
Mery's Notes historlques are informative. 

Their [the freedmen's] plantations are the haunts and asylum for all 
the idle and vagrant freedmen and for a great number of fugitive slaves 
and deserters from work gangs , 92 

They are dangerous people and friends of the slaves to whom they 
arc still attached by many more ties than they are to us , 93 


For his part, Father Gabon quite rightly concludes; 4 The freedmen 
were linked with the slaves because they themselves had been slaves, or if 
they were born free, by virtue of at least one of their forbears/* 04 

Cases of concealing Maroons arc numerous. For example, the Avis du 
Cap of 26 June 1769 describes the Maroon Zaire, a Congo runaway accom¬ 
panied by another woman* “We believe she is being hidden by free blacks 
in this town/’ In the same year, 1769, a decree of the Conseil Superieur of 
Port-au-Prince declares, 

the said Laurent Mace, free negro convicted of having given shelter to 
maroons Baptiste and Marie Louise, in reparations whereof Laurent Mac£ 
and his wife Marie-Agues, a free black, are divested of their freedom in 
conformity with the King’s declaration of 10 June 1705 and will be sold for 
the coffers of the King. 05 

Shortly afterward, in April 1770, a twenty-seven-year-old black creole seam¬ 
stress close to labor was presumed to be at Cap under the protection of a 
free Negro, 

In November 1771, eight male slaves and ten women from Plantation 
Piron on Black Mountain were presumed “to have been drawn off by some 
people of color** and the black woman Thisbe was suspected of having 
thrown in with a free mulatto from Tiburon who also had since disappeared. 
In May 1772, four runaway men and w r omen were '"presumed to be harbored 
by other slaves or free blacks/* At Grande-Riviere de Lcoganc, five Maroons 
were said to have been “taken away by some colored people*” In October 
1773, five Maroons declared “sheltered by some blacks near the border” 
could not be found “despite searches even to the Spanish sector* , * /* 

Solidarity was not the only thing at stake. There was in addition the mat¬ 
ter of interests* But perhaps the call of the blood was the dominant factor 
in the minds of the black and mulatto proprietors* 

Like the freedmen, the whites had also formed the habit of calling upon 
the Maroons* The latter were employed as day workers or if they had a 
trade they hired out their services for wages. It was commonly arranged to 
screen them from the vigilance of the authorities. They lived in hiding even on 
the plantations* This practice of secretly utilizing the services of fugitive slaves 
offered exceptional advantages-—the avoidance of paying the purchase price 
of a slave and the head tax, thus completing without disbursement the cadre 
of workers or farm hands* The advantage of such cheap labor and its appeal 
are apparent; hence the unexpected encouragement given by masters to the 
sheltering of Maroons in contempt of the very heavy penalties provided 
against this complicity by the Code Noir* 

One cannot help but suspect an active complicity among certain free 
blacks, mulattoes and those in marronage* 00 It was not simply by chance 
that in the historic account—this time minus any legend—of the death of the 
celebrated Boukman, at the very side of the Maroon chieftain attacked by 

Inquiry on Ihe Freedmen’s Class 229 

surprisej there was “a valiant mulatto who never deserted him,” as it would 
be one day with the Emperor at Pont-Rouge* and Charlotin Marcadieu 
“who fought like a lion against three dragoons before falling mortally 
wounded,” Jinked unto death with the courageous rebel of Rois Caiman, 97 

In addition to shelter generously provided Maroons, the repeated incite¬ 
ments to rebellion, the multiple activities of mixed-bloods like the mulatto 
Jerome, actively associated with desertions and the slaves’ struggle for libera¬ 
tion, there are, here and there in quite suggestive examples, descriptions of 
arms distributions and a considerable traffic in munitions or contraband 
powder and guns. It becomes apparent that Maroon bands were beginning 
to add to their traditional machetes more effective defensive means, particu¬ 
larly against the militia. 

In November 1767, when it was discovered that some Maroon bands 
had been supplied with firearms by freedmen, the colonial government for¬ 
bade freedmen to buy arms and powder without special authorization from 
the procurator. 

At Jcremie, in January 1792, a Bordeaux vessel would be seized, carry¬ 
ing under a stock of shoes “six hundred guns, fifty pistols and an equal 
number of sabers.”** It was the Americans and especially the English in 
Jamaica who supplied this contraband. In the previously mentioned report 
that M. de Cambefort addressed to Blanchelande on 7 November 1791 to 
report the death of the Maroon leader Bookman, he mentioned that “Bouk- 
man was carrying a double-barreled gun (belonging to his master Mr. 
Clement whom he had murdered) and a pair of excellent pistols. . . . Having 
moved forward to the Duthil plantation I took from them an eight-pounder, 
a mortar, some twenty pounds of powder and a number of bullets.” 00 

A December 1792 letter from citizen Pageot relative to an expedition 
against the slaves in revolt on the Artaud plantation at Maribaroux indicates 
that the rebel band of the Maroon chief Noel left lying about, in addition to 
a number of dead bodies, “a dozen sturdy guns, some pistols, sabers and 
gunpowder sacks. lcJ0 In skirmishes with the rebels, guns—even cannons— 
rather than machetes arc encountered with increasing frequency. The indi¬ 
gent Maroons were not able to purchase arms. In this regard they profited 
from internal quarrels among the whites by virtue of which they received 
occasional help from a few imprudent colonists playing with fire and espe¬ 
cially from the generous pursestrings of freedmen, blacks and mulattoes suffi¬ 
ciently enlightened to understand the imperative of a collective rescue. Par¬ 
allel with this solidarity, whether of racial or of mutual interests joined in 
resistance, another equally authentic aspect could be observed. That is the 
repression of marronage once again by freedmen under the guise of a defense 
of their interests but this time a defense stripped of every consideration for 
the slightest bit of racial solidarity. Situated for the most part in the hills and 

* Where Dess alines was ambushed and assassinated. 


in distant cantons less protected by the militia, frcedmen’s plantations, be¬ 
cause of this isolation, were particularly attractive to starving Maroons or 
organized bands of fugitives seeking provisions. The food crops of these 
freedmen were easy and frequent targets for Maroon incursions. Examples 
of assassinations committed against them by Maroons can be cited. The 
Taquoa Antoine, a Maroon, declared that “his master is a free black killed 
by Maroons in the mountains around Grands-Bois,” 

Thus, freedmen still ferociously hunted down looters, the isolated Maroon, 
and Maroon bands to such an extent that free blacks and mulattocs earned 
the reputation of being fervid enemies of the Maroons. In each case, it was, 
according to Moreau de Saint-Mery, the people of color who “ordinarily 
tracked down fugitive slaves and were then considered superior locally to 
any other soldier since, when they take off their shoes, they have the same 
advantages of the stave who by traveling barefoot can climb even rocks or 
descend steep cliffs.** 101 

In the colonial militia black freedmen and mulattocs were members of 
companies of colored men whose principal mission was the campaign against 
marronage. The Royal Ordinance of January 1787 declared in article 38 
that “The colored companies in time of peace shall be employed to pursue 
negro maroons.’ 1 

Later on we note government use of citizens of color for restoring order 
and for bringing a halt to slave desertions. In this regard the following docu¬ 
ment is strongly suggestive of the task expected of the colored companies. It 
is a circular issued by Francois Hubert de Thiballicr, Colonel 4th Infantry 
Regiment, commanding troops of the line and the armed forces in the South, 
July 1792. 

To all Commanders of Colored Citizens in the Province, In conformity 
with the proclamations of the Lieutenant Governor 28 and 29 May, and in 
support of the beneficent considerations inspiring them and in support of 
the views of the Minister of the Marine in his official advisory letter on the 
law of 3 April, it is my duty to bring together and employ all means depend¬ 
ent upon you and those under your command to cause to be returned to 
their respective work gangs as soon as possible all slaves in your parish who 
as a result of present circumstances are found to be absent. You are to 
understand that only the zeal and dispatch you give these preliminary and 
necessary measures can bring about a prompt and complete return to peace 
and order. To this end it must be your will as it is your duty to employ 
yourself in the most effective manner so there can remain no uncertainty 
whatever about the sincerity and purity of your intentions on this important 

Further, I believe you to be too enlightened about your true interests, 
too permeated with the grateful submission demanded of you by a law' 
which defines your responsibilities as well as your rights to have need to 
recommend to you the personal safety of each and every citizen of your 
parish, and particularly of those who come and return there with confidence 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 231 

after having been driven away by the harshness of circumstances during 
the troubles. 

In consequence of which it will be, from this moment, expressly forbid 
for any sugar mill to be operated except for the account of the proprietor; 
that no colonial products whatsoever he exported from the plantations except 
by order of the proprietor; that no provisions whether under cultivation or 
in store be taken from plantations except for the subsistence of armed 
citizens of color and upon written order of the Commandant of the quarter. 

That no outside slave be received at a plantation except by written per¬ 
mission of the owner. It shall likewise be ordered that from this time for¬ 
ward a careful search for animals will be instituted so that they may be 
returned and restored to the plantations to which they belong, notice having 
been given the owners. Orders will be issued immediately to the drivers of 
the various work gangs to have the main roads marked, to trim hedges to a 
height no more than three feet, to clean and repair irrigation and other 
canals for the maintenance of both crops and roads. 

At every waterfront and wharf there must be maintained the most alert 
police vigilance so that no colonial product as herein prohibited above may 
be imported, sold or exchanged in any manner whatsoever. That no slave 
alight there nor leave without written permission of his master. 

That no canoe, boat, whether coastwise or sent by proprietors with 
written permission be stopped or affronted. , . , One of the principal objec¬ 
tives recommended to your care and implementation is the necessary dis¬ 
arming of the slaves both those spontaneously armed and those obliged to 
do so by circumstances. 

We direct all Commanders of the citizens of color in the various parishes 
of the South to conform to the present order under penalty of being insubor¬ 
dinate under the law and to the legal authority and in consequence 
punished. 11 * 3 

Freedmen thus found themselves enrolled in the rural police and the 
militia opposed to marronage and used in the pursuit of fugitives and the 
stamping out of rebellions. Did not Julien Raymond declare before the 
Constituent Assembly that they would be misguided ‘To believe mulattoes 
crazy enough, possessing as they do a fourth of the slaves and a third of the 
land, to risk in a monstrous alliance their life and their newly acquired 
rank of citizen/’ and at the same time assuring the white proprietors: 

What does it matter that you are white? What does it matter that we are 
mulattoes? We are both proprietors, we both own land and slaves and we 
arc in consequence natural allies. 103 

On different occasions, the same statement will be pronounced by free 
blacks like Lapointe and free mulattoes, in the tone, at once cynical and 
sinister, of this appeal of the colored people of Port-au-Prince to those in 
the nearby surroundings. 


In the name of our properties, our wives and children and ourselves now 
in peril, wc urge you our friends to present yourselves without delay to make 
common cause with the whites. You will be welcomed and our reconcilia¬ 
tion with our fathers shall be, we hope, a lasting one. 

Signed: A. Moulens, Veraque, Boiieu, Pedrel and Borom£, 
free Mulattoes. 104 

The cause of the freedmen could be of interest only to freedmen. Cer¬ 
tainly it was not the slaves’ cause. Quite clearly it was a rescue attempt lim¬ 
ited only to freedmen, persecutors of Maroons, and thus inimical to freedom 
for the slaves, whom they, whether free blacks or free mulattoes, exploited 
without mercy. 100 

It was indeed neither the colonists in their white or red pompoms, nor 
the copper or ebony-skinned freedmen, nor the sympathy and the ignored 
prophesies of the ‘Triends of the Blacks’ 1 that made possible the rise of the 
slaves and the conquest carved out by their own extraordinary courage. It 
would be unjust and vain to fraction off the merit of this feat and thus to 
diminish the grandeur and all the purity of the slave’s own epic by adding 
the illusory gift of occasional acts of assistance or of real or supposed con¬ 
tributions to the miracle of his own valiance exhibited at the price of his 
own sweat and blood. 

Who then with impunity could possibly rob the Saint-Domingue Africans 
of even the minutest particle of glory for founding a nation, a people? By 
what guile could one sully or fragment so indivisible a glory, that fruit of a 
liberation so dearly purchased yet so generously shared with those long time 
accomplices to their forced servitude? Hunted on all sides, tortured, betrayed 
and rejected, sold by their brothers they had nevertheless, in sweat and tears, 
risen like a song of glory above the furrows of Liberty. Who would wish to 
deprive them of the very memory of their secular martyrdom? 

What freedmen, black or mulatto, could ever pay that “debt of light” 
owed the Maroons of Liberty? 1 ** Indeed none; too many divergent interests 
still separated slaves and free blacks and mulattoes to accord sharper signifi¬ 
cance to those rather weak examples of racial solidarity and liaison which 
show through in a still rather shadowy manner. The word “solidarity” had 
not yet any meaning. 

The colonist, in whose major interest it was to divide and conquer in 
order to rule, carefully nourished an undeclared hatred between slaves and 
freedmen. The policy of color grafted on this cynical proposal was in the 
long run so sharply etched in colonial mores that its perfidy, like an odor 
from the curse of separated brothers, permeated Saint-Domingue. 

Above this blind subracism, above such deeply anchored and similar con¬ 
tingencies and ambiguities, the union of Dcssalincs and Pction stands out in 
that sinister darkness like a miraculous star sent to guide our steps toward 

Inquiry on the Freedmen’s Class 233 

But, having won that independence, we so quickly picked up again, re¬ 
viewed, improved on, and augmented the perfidious teachings of the white 
colonist. And that is yet another story—that story of the black and mulatto 
colonials who were never divided in their continued and merciless exploita¬ 
tion of slaves, since baptized as peasants, the bitter story of Joseph sold by 
his brothers, or of the ladder with rungs sawed through, . . , 


Status and Occupation of the Proprietors 

WHO WERE THE PROPRIETORS, the white colonists, and the frcedmen 
who denounced the action of slaves who opted for marronage? They repre¬ 
sented ail social positions and every calling or profession. Among them were 
owners of large and small plantations, owners of sugar mills and indigo 
farms, planters boasting work gangs numbering hundreds of slaves or a more 
modest fifty to one hundred slaves, laborers, domestics, and specialized 
workers. 101 

Specifically, for example: Plantation d’Argout, Daux at Quartier Morin, 
Delaville at Saint-Marc, Binau, Gallois, Prince de Rohan, Segineau, Chevalier 
de Puilborcau, Marquisant at Port-au-Prince, Soisson, Cotard, Rocheblanche, 
Drouillard, Segur, Portelance, Sui're, Lalanne, Testard, Walch at Haut du 
Cap, Dumas in Marmelade, Cotard, Breda, Gerbaud, Caradeux, Dumai, Pays 
de Lathan at Lcs Vareux, Comtcsse de Butler in Morne Rouge, Vignier at 
l’Arcahaye, the Despinose Brothers at Cul-de-Sac, Guittau, Coustard, Com- 
tessc de Sparrc at Maribaroux, Chabcrt, Galiiffct, La Chappelle. . . . 

It was the plantations and factories (sugar and indigo) that had the 
greatest number of Maroons to declare, common laborers heading the list 
above the specialized workers and the domestics. Yet these latter were in 
sizeable proportion in the big plantation houses as well as in town, a reflec¬ 
tion of the competition in luxurious living, of which one of the most striking 
manifestations was possession of slaves in domestic service. Saint-Domingue 
eyewitnesses reported that most often there were more servants than masters 
in the colonial mansions. This type of luxury was confirmed by the news¬ 
papers on occasions when departure sales or liquidations of inheritance oc¬ 
curred. Here are several examples: 

Mr. Mornet, about to depart, offers for sale six negresses one of whom 
has three children which he will sell as a lot or individually. 103 

Mr. Hudicourt, resident Assistant Surgeon at Port-au-Prince, leaves for 
France in May with his wife and three children. He has for sale a barber, a 
pastry oook, a postillion, a valet, a carter, a quadroon dressmaker and 
embroiderer with her six-year-old child and a good laundress. 100 

Another who is leaving advertises for sale “two males and two females 



ten years on the island, all cash or payable in March, 1 * 110 At the liquidation 
of Mademoiselle Dumont’s estate the offering was 

. , . nine carpenters, nine field hands, and house servants named as follows: 
Choisy and Aron, hairdressers; Baptiste, Tisbe, Desire, Venus, Suzanne, 
Sophie, Marie-Jeanne, Adee, Hennette, Marie-Louise and her two children, 
Philis Frangoise, and Marie, 

In all, the young Miss Dumont had fifteen domestics. There were better 
offerings at public auction thanks to Mr. Seller, executor of the estate of 
the late Mr. Alvarez formerly a resident of Croix des Bouquets. He drew 
the line at nothing, not even, in addition to a battalion of little black girls, 
an active concubine to be auctioned with her little mulatto boy: 

Seven head of negroes or negresses as follows: Marie age twenty-four to 
twenty-six a laundress, Sophie age fourteen to fifteen, Victoire, twenty to 
twenty-two, Maric-Claire, thirteen to fourteen, all house-servants; Lindor age 
fifteen to sixteen, Fantaisie, ten to eleven, both valets and Marie-Louise 
between twenty and twenty-one, mother of a mulatto boy. 111 

There were many women proprietors, most of them widows who insured 
the succession of one or more husbands whom they had buried: Mmc. 
Chavoleau at Plaisancc, the Widow Chaillcau, Mme, Chevcrt, Mmc. BataiUe 
at Fond, the Widow Yvon at Cap, the Widow Cotin, the Widow Perdreau 
in Leogane, Mme. de Raymond in Nippes, Mmc, Marc of Cavaillon, Mme. 
Bed anger, the Widows Damiens and Grandjean. . . . 

In the freedmen’s ranks there were a considerable number of black and 
mulatto women. It is they especially who acceded to the distribution of 
property and other wealth in the colony. All indications are that, through 
the women, the freedmen’s class increasingly consolidated its economic status. 
It is perhaps an exaggeration to credit the freedmen, as has been done, with 
controlling one-fourth of the colonial wealth, but there is some justification 
for lending credence to the statement that at auctions they carried off the 
best homes. They "accumulate capital” and owned *'lhc most beautiful 
properties in many districts.* 1112 

Advertisements hardly ever give the occupations of freedmen. All we 
have are their names: Joseph Gabriel called the Intendcnt; Mcllet, Free 
Negro of Jacmel; Louis, Free Negro of Dondon; Henriette, Free Negress of 
Leogane; Jean, Free Mulatto at Jacmel; Chaviteau, M. L.; Francoisc, M, L,; 
Marianne, M.L., at Leogane; Bonnefemmc, Free Mulatto at Ecrevisses; 
Jeannette, Catherine, Free Mulattresses; Fillctte, Free Quadroon; Ncm, Free 
Negro; Jacques known as Bambara N,L,; Charles, Free Quadroon; Dau, 
Free Negress, Saint-Laurent, NX.; Janvier, NX.; Jerome, MX. , , > 

Infrequently there is indication that these freedmen were plantation 

Status and Occupation of the Proprietors 237 

Runaway Jean Louis, creole age thirty-four belonging to the plantation of 
Jasmin Thomaseau, Free Negro at Mome Rouge; his mother Nanette, a 
Free Negress, lives in Mornets and is the wife of Jean-Baptiste Olivier, Free 
Negro. A maroon escaped from the plantation of Latortue, Free Negro of 
Rtvi&re Salee. 113 

Their occupations arc rarely stated: Francois, Ml,, carpenter at Mire- 
balais; Marie-Jeanne, ML. of Vcrrettes, a merchant. Whenever freedmen 
carried both name and surname, that is, “Joseph Lebrun, Sr.,” this was an 
indication that they were longtime freedmen who had become rooted and 
were persons of distinction in the community. 

The occupations pursued by white colonists were, by contrast, regularly 
given. Clearly observable then is the diversity of their social status and re¬ 
peated proof that marronage was not a phenomenon characteristic only of 
slaves subjected to hard plantation labor. Not precluded were the well-fed 
slaves in the inns and bakeries such as, for example, Paul, “twenty years a 
seller of bread, light-skinned, slightly grey beard, fifty years old,” or the 
Adia woman, Rosalie, who “sold bread on the outskirts (en plaine)” 

Here then, should further assurance be needed, are some surnames of 
masters with their professions and occupations: M. Becht, a Cap doctor; Mr, 
des Brousscs, attorney; Mr, Martinet, coffee grower of Cap; Mr. Charles, a 
sugar-mill owner at Plaine; Mr, Chevalier, innkeeper; Mr, Artau, contractor; 
Dupin, Cap mason; Prcvost, businessman; Cumberteau, a caulker; the Vorbes 
brothers and Mr. Martin, cabinetmakers; and the surgeon Coulombier at 
Cap; Surgeon Gaubert of Alcul; Lardy, a cooper; Chapotot, prison keeper 
in Port-au-Prince; Lebcrquier, a merchant; the provost Maret at Leogane; 
Atimar, a baker; the chevalier Lieutenant Deretz; La Pierre, innkeeper; Dr. 
Scutt of Leogane. At Saint-Marc, Couvertier, a tailor; Guiheneux, a cooper; 
Michel, a notary in Port-au-Prince; Francois, merchant; Guibert, cafe owner; 
Bordier, notary at Cap; Breton, a smelter; dc Chamartin, officer; Eseoffier 
and Ponthicu, bailiffs; Troubac, shoemaker; the tailor Lafleur; Duchateau, a 
fisherman; Lelievre, a cane-mill owner; Cherct de Montgrain of Saint-Louis, 
a Substitute; Hartman, gunsmith; d’Empaire, a surveyor; Safadin, apothecary; 
Parent, carpenter; Bussifere, tanner; Ferdule, blacksmith; Mathurin, coastal 
sailor; Lacour, carter; Cheron, an engineer; Moulie, doctor; Mrs. Lemoine, 
Cap midwife; Robcrjot, paymaster; Duhuisson, comedian at Cap. 

We will complete this wide-ranging sample of masters denouncing run¬ 
away slaves adding to the list the governors themselves: Marquis de Fon- 
tenellc of LJmonade; Archbishop Thibaut, lawyer; the chevalier d*Auvergne; 
President Bongars; not to mention the Peres de THopital dc la Charite and 
the other congregations: Jesuits, Dominicans, missionaries, and parish priests, 
like Father Zephirin at Cap; Father Irenee, parish priest at Fort Dauphin; 
Fathers Seraphin and de Pradincs in Port-au-Prince; Father Saintez; or even 
Father Juan Cairate, “parish priest of Inche in the Spanish sector,” 


Finally* let us indicate the few masters with neither plantations nor pro¬ 
fessions who nevertheless made a good living hiring out by the day or on 
short or long lease slaves they had bought at bargain prices from among 
rejected lots. This was done with an eye to deriving from them a life income 
after having cared for and “patched them up” a bit. As follows: “For rent, 
the slave Andre. Contact Mrs. Chambellan. s, “For hire by the day Jean- 
Noel, eighteen, claims he belongs to a resident of Boucassin.” 

In resume, if the masters were engaged in a variety of professions or 
occupations, most of the proprietors owned plantations and field slaves. The 
abundance of descriptions emanating from the towns and thus from masters 
with easier access to the press does not result in reversing the very clear 
domination of field workers over domestics or skilled workers in the runaway- 
slave advertisements. 

NOTES, pp. 195-238 

1. Mend&s-France retiring from business left Saint-Domingue with his daughter 
Angeliquc, then seven years old. Prior to his departure he offered for sale 
“several houses in the loveliest sections of Petit-Goave.” SS.A. t 17 May 1787, 
and A,A . of 27 March 1788. 

2. One of these, Edmc-Felix Piver, died at Saint-Marc 14 January 1769. 

3. Rossignol Lachicotte had eleven children. Her brother Phillip had many descend¬ 
ants. The ancestor of this Saint-Domingue family was J. B. Rossignol Lachicotte 
who, in 1690* migrated from St. Kilts to settle in Artibonite. 

4. Vaissifrre, p. 65, 

5. Partially edited text of Louis E. Elie, La vie coloniale a Saint-Domingue. Personal 
collection of the author and BihUotheque Haitienne des Frires de Saint-Louis de 

6. Vaisstere, p. 77. 

7. G. Dcbicn and J. Houdaille. Les engines africaincs ties esclaves des Antilles 
f ran guises t p, 22. 

8. Examples cited by General Nemours or given by Saint-Mery. 

9. Hilliard d’Auberteui! gives the number of m^ssallies in the colony in 1770 as 
three hundred. In 1790 the colonist Thomas Millet recommended to the Saint- 
Marc Assembly that it require all mixed couples to take an African name, 

10. For many of the Saint-Bomingue parishes: Saint-Marc* Cap, Leogane, Jeremie, 
Cayes, and others. Sec the lists of names published in my work Le theatre d Saint- 

11. Cluadc Aubourg died on his plantation at Grand-Boucan 31 December 1781. 
A.A., 30 January 1782. 

12. Rene Chatelaln of Artibonite after February 1768. 

13. G. B. Du quay la died at Cayes November 1787. 

14. Hie colonists I3cronscray operated a business firm in association with a Mr, 
Nadeau, One of the Deronseray widows was living in Petit-Goave in 1781. Her 
only son was a lawyer in the Conseil Supericur of Port-ail-Prince (S~A.A. f 27 
February 1781). He died in Cayes at the age of forty-eight, “after having sacri¬ 
ficed his youth to the study of law and to the protection of the widow and an 

Nates 239 

orphan boy, enjoying the esteem of all,” Le Courtier politique du Cap, No. 20 f S 
May 1791, which reported the death, wrote it as dc Ronccray and not Deron- 
seray, even though people were shedding the particle, 

15* There is also d’Hudicourt, a member of the colonial assembly in 1791. See La 
Sentinelie du Peuple. 

16* The name Lavaud was found in a number of parishes. One of them was a church 
warden at Limbe. The Lavauds were great proprietors in Port-au-Prince, Borgne, 
and Port-Margot, most of them related to Arnaud Lavaud, Sr., a rich ship outfitter 
from Bordeaux. 

17. The I’Espinasse family originated, it is said, in Guyana, migrated to Normandy 
in the fourteenth century, then settled in Maine in the sixteenth century. See G, 
Debien; "Un p ret re manceau dans i'a venture 1 ' in La Province du Maine, October 
197L It is the story of Father Pierre-Fran go is de 1’Espinasse w r ho, like the sur¬ 
geon, doubtless one of the brothers, lived for a time in Saint-Domingue and 
ministered the Jeremic parish in 1798. 

18. Plantation Mathon In the commune of Baraderes still exists. There were also 
Mathons who founded a family at Cap. 

19. This family originated in Nantes. The firm Maison Martineau of Nantes was 
deeply involved in Saint Domingue business and the slave trade. 

20, "Runaway slave Silvie, a Senegalese, branded J. Nadal at Cap, five feet two inches, 
very dark, part of her right ear cut off. Notify Dr, Nadal, Penthievre Street, the 
Cap.' 1 A.A. of 30 March 1779. Jean Nadal, departing in 1781, sold at his home 
at the corner of Saint-Simon and Fenlhi£vre in Cap "several negresses, trades¬ 
women, Will put together good package." 1 May 178L 

21* Jacob Pereyra had two sons, Manuel, who settled in Cap, and Raphael, who 
directed the firm Pereyra Brothers in Port-au-Prince. 

22. A Sejourne was receiver of unclaimed slaves at Fort Dauphin; another was 
postmaster in the same village. In any case, the Sejournes were more numerous 
and belter known in Jacmel and especially in Grande-Anse. Pierre Leon, in his 
w r ork on marchands et speculateurs dauphinois dans te rrtonde antiltais cites (p, 
144) a letter of Frangois Teslas dated 12 January 1792 at Jeremie; ‘The mulat- 
toes . , , led their work gangs in insurrection. They strangled Mme Plengue, her 
daughter, and three little boys. They indulged in every possible type of cruelty, 
especially with Mme Sejoume, daughter of Mme Plengue. This woman about 
eighteen years of age, only one year a wife and eight months pregnant, was 
strangled, her head sliced, her stomach cut open and the seed she bore lhrow r n 
to the pigs running about the swampy area/' A similar version is provided by 
Pamphile de Lacroix, 

23. The Cochon brothers were merchants at Cap. The name w r as also borne by a 
captain of a slave ship. 

24. The Jumels owned plantations at Saint-Marc and Ve re ties. In the Affiches Ameri- 
caines of 31 May 1769, there was a fugitive-slave advertisement describing 
“Michel, a Congo with the Jumcl Saint-Marc brand on the left side of his chest, 
age twelve to thirteen, wearing a neck stock marked as property of Mr. Jumel, 
resident of Ve re ties." The name Jumel is frequently spelled Jumelle, 

25. For this localization see S^mexant Rouzier, Dktionaire geographique d’Haiti, 

26. Emile I-Iayot, Les gens de coideur libres du Fori Royal, pp. 19, 57, 

27. Archives de la France d'Ou(re-Mcr t Oudinot Street depot. 

28. See the work on the history of the descendants of Toussaint Louverture by Gen¬ 
eral Nemours, one of our outstanding historians, 

29. A very old family of free blacks. To our knowledge, Manigat was cited as early 
as the early eighteenth century as referring to free blacks. In the Affiches Amiri - 
caines of 28 May 1766 w r e have found “one Manigat, a free black of Fort Dau- 


phin," declaring the loss of a reddish brown horse branded M,C, Docs the name 
derive from French stock, or does it come from the Marcorix language spoken 
by the indigenous people, from ntaniga, which means chief? We should add that, 
as early as 1743, there was a free black named Manigat, who knew how to Fead 
and write. The same Manigat of Fort Dauphin, described above, like all the rich 
freed men, owned plantations and slaves* In the Avis du Cap of Wednesday, 15 
March 1769, there was a declaration of an African turned maroon, “Antoine, a 
Congo with the Manigat brand on the right chest claiming to belong to one 
Manigat, free black of Fort Dauphin.” Just before Independence, there was at 
Fort-Dauphin a judge named Manigat and, as we know, a Manigat was mayor 
of Cap-Frangais when Hedouville arrived. 

30, Probably from Lieutaud de Troisvilles, resident of Les Vases, Arcahaye. A 
Liautaud married one Made-Jeanne but nothing in the marriage certificate w r e 
examined indicated that this was indeed the Illustrious heroine. 

3L The author can attest to this, having for ten years lived the peasant life in the 
Boucassm region and having travelled through great stretches of our rural com* 
m unities. 

32. See Alfred Metraux, Le Vaudou haitien, and Laennec Hurbon, Bleu dans le 
Vaudou haitien. Of course, not taken into account in this superficial approach is 
the symbolism of the coloring of offerings or of divinities, of which the great 
majority of Voodoo practitioners are utterly unknowing* 

33. Although a posthumous daughter of Petion was named Hersilie, the statement of 
an essayist (whose only trace of originality is that of having been an adept in 
exoticism) is taken as legend namely, that Petion as a result of marriage found 
himself consecrated to the Voodoo divinity Erzulie, Such a commitment, however, 
did not preclude a true marriage subject, under the most common ‘'contract," 
to the stipulation that one day per week be consecrated to the goddess* 

34. This was not far from the site where the workroom of the Convent of the 
Madeleine used to be, according to certain historians, among them Pierre Eugene 
de Lespinasse, in Gen,s d'aulrefois t vieux souvenirs, who really had in mind the 
great house that General Petion later built there. 

35. See Charles Frost in, Enire L 1 Anjou ei Salnt-Domlngue, Bulletin 13-14 of the 
Soci6tc d’Histoire de la Guadeloupe, 1790. In 1777 the name is written Heurtelou 
in the Affiches Amiricmnes for a Leogane businessman interested in the slave 

36. S.AS>, 15 December 1784* 

37. Actually the Marquis Hughes-Rarthelcmy Alexandre d'Hanache settled in the 
Gonaives region. See Francoise Th£s£e, Negotiants horde!ais et colons de Saint- 
Domlngue, Paris, 1972. 

38. Journal des Debats of Thursday, 11 August 179L There are some Dessalines in 
Port-au-Prince, The Dessalines, a place name added to a patronym, are very 
numerous in the eighteenth century. Again it must be stressed that de , des , or du 
w r ere not always indicators of nobility, 

39* Moniteur General de Saint-Domingue, 11 October 1792. 

40* Ibid., 30 November 1792. 

41. In France also some family names derive from first names: Antoine, Henry, 
Claude* Fouchard or Faubert, according to the Dicttonaire des noms de famille, 
must have been derived from originally Germanic pronouns. 

42. Widow de Gislain, originally from LaRochelle, died at seventy at Port-au-Prince 
in 1756. 

43* A colonial anecdote would have it that one day La Pointe offered Bayon de 
Libertad four thousand francs for the purchase of Toussaint, his former slave, 
who was then well on his way. It w-as only a legend to mark "La Pointers 

Notes 241 

44. See Placide David. Sur les rives du passi . 

45. See lean Fouchard, Gabriel Debicn. “Le petit marronage b Saint Domingue 
autour du Cap 1790-1791,” p, 60, and Journal General de Saint-Domingue r 17 
November 1790, 15 February, and 19 April 1791. The celebrated colored actress 
M incite, who starred on the Port-au-Prince stage was called “the young person.” 
It was only toward the end of her extraordinary career that she was accorded the 
designation “la demoiselle Minette” (Miss Minnette). She then had house slaves, 
one of whom, the Maroon Isidore, “claimed to belong to the Demoiselle Minette/* 
A .A., 4 February 1790. 

46. A.A. f 7 May 1786. The first name, apparently, had been Lartigue before be¬ 
coming Dartigue. Marie-Cat he rine Dartigue was a mesiive M which, in Saint* 
Domirtque, usually meant born of a svhile father and Carib mother, according to 
Father Labat’s definition. As for the name Mercy, it could have come from the 
Count of Mercy-Argenteau who owned a plantation in Plains du Fond on lie a 
Vache {A.A,, 1782). 

47. Celigny Ardouin, Essais sur VHistoire d'Haiti, 1865, p, 31* 

48. Not to be forgotten is the long series of “Jean” compound names: Jean-Baptiste, 
Jean-Pierre, Jean-Louis, Jean-Frangois, . , , 

49. It will be remembered that against the single possibility of enfranchisement 
through birth generally available to mukittoes, blacks had a score or more ways 
of obtaining or acquiring freedom, and did so in greater numbers given their 
numerical superiority. 

50. A.A., and Feuille du Cap, 23 March 1787. By the terms of an ordinance of 
January 1789, all residents not living in cities and towns who had a maximum of 
four slaves were exempt from paying royal and municipal taxes, 

51. Moreau, 1, 102, 103, 

52. Saint-Mery is certain Eh at from 1770 the floodgates of freedom were opened. En¬ 
franchisements were multiplied for the purpose of fattening the public coffers and 
the program of “embellishments,” In ten years the freedmen's class doubled in 

53. Emile Hayot, in “Les gens de couleur Iibres du Fort-Royal/* states, “Right up to 
1760 w f e find more marriages of free blacks than mulatlocs. They were then 
actually more numerous and formed more stable families, , , . It is among these 
blacks that we find the principal notables before 1750.” One can suppose that the 
F’ort-Royal situation was typical of all Martinique and perhaps also of all the 
little French Antilles. 

54. J. Saintoyant, La Colonisation frangaise pendant la Hivolution, tome 1, p. 128* 

55. Dakar 1960: SainFMery himself speaks at length about “tacit enfranchisements 
. . , to which the administration closed its eyes . * /*, of a sort of “intermediate 
class between emancipation and slavery” formed by the “quasi-enfranchised.” 

56. Saint-Domingue a la veille de la revolution et la question de la representation 
coloniale aux Etats-Gcneraux** Paris, 1906, pp. 32-33. 

57. Saint-M6ry (I, p. 111). The historian of Saint-Domingue, let us add, states that 
“the mulattoes are the most numerous” (I, 103), all the while admitting the 
existence of “tacit enfra^ch]Sements/ , which to us seems a play on words. 

58. SainFMery, I, p, 110, 

59. II, p, 208. The classic type of slave liberated from his own master was often 
described thus in advertisements: “For a number of years he has boldly enjoyed 
freedom simply by claiming to be free.” SA.A, f 28 February 1795, 

60. Father Gabon, I, 306. 

61. “Marie-Rose, five months pregnant, property of M. Rotureau, captain of the 
Limb6 Militia, to whom she belongs despite the sale apparently ceding her to 


her mother, one Magdcleme, a Free Negress, of which he has been so careful as 
to retain and register a copy,” S»A*A r , 30 July 1783, 

62, In “Destinies d'eselavcs a la Martinique-” 

63, See Saint-M6ry, pp. 411-416 for the long list of miseries and difficulties heaped 
upon AIoou Kinsou called Masmin, bom in 1714 in the Gold Coast, and his 
wife, Catherine, a Focda, married at Saint-Domingue, both free, for having tried, 
by providing a home for them, to ameliorate the lot of enfranchised and liberated 
persons wandering the streets of Cap, 

64, Jacques Houdaille, “Trois paroisses de Saint-Domingue au XVIII sifccle," in Popu¬ 
lation, No, 1, January-March 1963, 

65, “Her slow walk emphasizing the undulations of her hips , . * the whiteness of 
startlingly beautiful teeth , , , priestesses of Venus in comparison with whom a 
Lais, a Phryne, would have discovered their fame vanishing into nothingness , * * 
the entire being of the mulatto woman is surrendered to voluptuousness . , . to 
charm all the senses, raise them to the most delirious ecstasies, suspend them by 
the most seductive delights. That is her sole preoccupation, , , , Nature endowed 
her with charms, allurements. In Sainl-Domingue one sees a rather large number of 
mulattrcsses who could change their entire wardrobe every day of the year,” Thus 
wrote Saint Mery (I, 105). His enthusiasm in celebrating the grace and seduc¬ 
tive qualities of the mulaltress is echoed by all his contemporaries, 

66, Cited by Vaissiere, p, 229. 

67, Moniteur giniral dc la Panic Frangaise de Salnt-Domingue, No. I, Tuesday 15 
May 1792, 

68, Avis divers and Petites Afjiches Amirtcaines, Supplement, of 13 February 1765. 

69, The following avowal by SainLMcry is stripped of all artifice: “The heat of the 
climate which fans the desires and the ease of satisfying these will always make 
prohibitive law's useless" (I, 107), 

70, P, 202* Island of Santo Domingo M 1797, by Bryan Edwards, English consul at Cap, 

7L Ardouin, I, 21. 

72. A*A. t 22 November 1788. 

73. Nouvelles diverscs and Affiches Amiricaines. 

74. Assemble colonialc de ta Panic Frangaise de Saint-Domingue. Proces-Vcrbeaux 
dcs Stances ct Journal dcs DSbats J 25 August 1791, 

75. In general, “colored man" {homme de couleur) meant not only the mulattocs or 
the free Negro long enfranchised and rich enough to be called “colored man,” but 
often any freedman, black or mulatto. 

76. Journal dcs Debars de PAssembUe colonialc , , * 25 August ]79L 

77. Moniteur general , 19 November 1792. Already since the beginning of the eighteenth 
century there had been, in the small parishes, black militias with black captains, 
and slaves had always sought this route to freedom. In passing we cite a very sad 
example: "M, Monlauroy, attorney for the plantation of the heirs Cazeau of Cut- 
de-Sac, declares that the mulatto Joseph, who was found dead the fifth of this 
month at 4:00 a.m., w r as a slave on said plantation, but said Mr, Moniauroy, hav¬ 
ing been instructed by his principals to permit the said mulatto his Liberty, author* 
ized him to enlist in the militia in order to earn his freedom after the three years 
prescribed by ordinance; onty two years had passed since he entered service, which 
is why Mr. Monlauroy claimed any effects the said mulatto slave might have left. 
Besides, most of these rags were procured by his mother, a slave on Plantation 
Cazeau, w r ho sold chickens and pigs so as to clothe her son, and it is right that the 
value of these old clothes return to that unfortunate mother who sacrificed herself 
in order io clothe and support him," Gazette de Saint-Dorniague, Saturday, 20 
August 1791, 

78. Proclamation of 13 November 1791, 

Notes 243 

79, Mad lou, Histoire d'Haiti, 1, 426* 

gO, Quite frequently history has had no problem in selecting its purest heroes from 
among those leaders whose deeds have threaded through the tangle of the most 
extraordinary contradictions. These contradictions could have been merely tactics. 
This is the explanation we suggest for Sonthonax who, debarking at SainCDomingue 
as a friend of the blacks, proclaimed the continuance of slavery, then, for support, 
sought to lean now upon the whites, now upon the freedmen, again finally upon 
the blacks, whose mass liberation he proclaimed. Why is there general refusal to 
view Sonthonax's contradictions as having been a matter of calculated tactics? Be¬ 
tween the just who persevered and the repentant sinner, history more often than 
not chooses to crown the latter, and the weaknesses of a hero, his very faults, 
find an explanation and the indulgence demanded by genius. Undoubtedly it is in 
this light that history will judge Sonthonax, 

81, Quotations taken from the Proclamations of Sonthonax and Polv^rel in 1793 and 
1794* It was the white deputies who, adopting the same tactic, “attempted the 
maneuver of turning the free blacks against the mulattoes" and incited the former 
to present the Protest which began with the preamble, ‘The negro is by inheri¬ 
tance pureblooded, the mulatto on the contrary is a product of mixed bloods . * . 
a bastardized species* , , , The negro is superior to the mulatto, . . , Pure gold is 
worth more than its alloy.” Sonthonax, op. cit I, pp, 1G8-1Q9. 

82* Gazette des Cayes, 2 September 1792, 

83. Bulletin officid de Satnt-Dondngue, Cap , 7 February 1797, No* 19* 

84. ibid., 8 January 1797. 

85. Moniteur general de Saint-Domingue t 11 October 1792* 

86. Polverel’s Proclamation on general liberty in the West and South, dated 31 
October 1793. 

87. Les Matrons da Syllahaire, pp, 34-43. In colonial practice slave dances, meetings, 
and ceremonies were often grouped under the designation Voodoo, even if on the 
occasion these gatherings did not perform the strict rites of true Voodoo religion 
or expressed only vague forms of varied African superstitious practices or imitations 
of the mesmerism which the colonists made fashionable after public demonstrations 
by the famous Count de PugsSgur at Providence Hospital. They were so fabulous 
that in 1791 the count's name was given to a slave ship, 

88. Bulletin officid de Sdnt-Domingue, 28 January 1797 (9 pluviose). 

89. Martin (op. cit „ 210) puts at fifteen thousand the number of slaves to be “con¬ 
sidered lost” in 1791, in addition to a thousand whites massacred, two hundred 
sugar mills and twelve hundred coffee plantations destroyed, 

90. Gazette des Cayes, 18 March, 22 April 1792. 

91* “Gens de couleur et colons de Saint- Domingue devant la cons til uante,” Montreal , 
1951, p. 5, 

92 * Memoire des A dm inist rat ears de Sat nt-D o mingu e r 17 M arch 1755. 

93. Me moire sitr les pretensions des isstts d r indie ns et de sang-meles. 

94. P, Adolphe Gabon, Histoire d'Haiti, Tome II, p. 545. 

95. A,A., March 1769, 

96. A number of Maroon chiefs were mulatto: Candi, Jerome, for example, and even 
Romaine la Prophetesse, according to Madron, or the Candide w f ho played an 
active role in the ceremony at Bois-Caiman, not to mention women such as 
Marie-Jeanne, Henriette Saint-Marc, and others. 

97. Rapport de M. de Cambeforl & M* de Blanchelande, 7 November 1791, No. 86 of 
19 November 1791, in the Journal des Dchats of the Colonial Assembly* 

98. Vobservatcur colonial imprimerie M. Lemery, Cayes, No. 5, 15 January 1792, 

99. Journal des Dehats, No. 86, 19 November 1791. In his camp at Coupe-a-David 
Boukman had five cannons. 


100. Moniteur Giniral de la Partie Frangaise. , , . 

101. Saint-M£ry t I, p, 104. 

102. Supplement de la Gazette des Cayes, 1 July 1792. 

103. Cited in Jean-Jaur£s, Histoi re socialiste de la Revolution Frangaise, Tome II, and 
in Jos6 L, Franco, Historia de la Revolucidn de Haiti, p. 197. 

104. Journal du Port-au-Prince t Thursday, 8 September 1791. Bibliotheque Moreau de 
Saint-Mery, F.O.M., vol, 15. 

105. In a confidential letter to his brother Julian, Francois Raymond, appalled, ex¬ 
claimed: “Great God! Do our interests require us to support an evil cause and to 
applaud inhuman acts against those unfortunates (the slaves)?” Letter of 1 October 
1789. Sannon, 1, 87. 

106. In remaining linked to Br£da, as if to continue sharing up to the last minute the 
life of his brothers, was it the intent of Toussaint-Louverture, First of the Blacks, 
to indicate his disdain for sharing in the life of the freed men and for being asso¬ 
ciated with that class, some of whom possessed slaves? A question not to be 
sneered at, even if later on we see Toussaint, then in supreme command, resort 
without pity to the whip in his demand for a return to labor and the supreme effort 
to increase the resources w'hich w-ould insure Independence. On the other hand, 
could it have been simply chance that free black and mulatto slave owners like 
La Pointe were dropped en route, blocked out of any association with the Inde¬ 
pendence as if they were unworthy of being accepted by the masses and hallowed 
with their confidence for training the cadres indispensable to the final assault? We 
will describe as a curiosity the version supplied by a “houngan“ which, according 
to oral tradition, would have it that Toussaint, a devotee of the Arada rites, could 
not participate in the earliest slave uprisings, which were inspired by leaders of the 
Petro rites. See Desquiron, op. citp. 102. 

107. The Foiiche group of plantations at Jean-Rabel had eight hundred slaves. 

108. S.A.A., 25 March 1786, 

109. Gazette de Sainf-Domingue, 27 April 1791, 

110. S.A.A., 11 March 1786. 

111. S,AA. t 6 November 1784. 

112. Me moire des Admmistrateurs au Ministre. This was the situation as early as 1755. 

113. A Jean-Baptiste, whom the journal designates under the label Treedman’* without 
the usual description “N.L.“ or ”MX./' is described as living in Cap at Place de 




Different Forms of Marronage 

THE WORD “MAROON 11 derives, it is believed, from the Spanish clmarron, 
meaning wild, the word itself coming from the name of an Indian people in 
Panama, the Symarons, who revolted against Spanish domination. This is the 
most popularly accepted hypothesis. Several other explanations were offered 
during colonial days at a time when there was no agreement on the origin 
of the term. Acknowledging this hurdle the Affiches Amiricaines, 1 during the 
course of an inquiry' engaging the entire colony, proposed for choice a series 
of hypotheses all apparently logical: 

Maroon may have come from marro f Spanish noun meaning flight, 
escape, from which probably wc constructed the adjective maroon. The 
author of a rather long letter has this Creole word deriving from our 
French word marauder. A resident of Jeremic has it coming from the Span¬ 
ish adjective marrano, an epithet applied to wild pigs. Another hypothesis is 
that the Spaniards who first settled In America believed they owed no more 
honor to their unfortunate runaway slaves than to call them Simarons, that 
js, monkeys because they withdrew into the heart of the woods. 

Following which the editor of the Affiches, Charles Mozard suggested a switch 
from Spanish to English: 

The filibusters were Englishmen and Frenchmen. In order to express de¬ 
sertion by the sailors the English used the verb "to maroon/* which they 
must have spread among the French and the Spanish; it must have served 
as the basis for the words marro , marrano t Maroon. * , „ 

If there was no agreement about the origins of “Maroon/ 1 the meaning 
of the word was only too well known in Saint-Domingue. It is not surprising 
that a long inquiry filling a quarter of the gazettes was devoted to this word, 
so chronic a wound on the colonial regime. The word Maroon has kept its 
real meaning, that of desertion, a charge to which the slave in his flight to 
liberty became liable. 

Thus we arrive at different forms of marronage, which we will try to 
examine by establishing a scale of gravity for flights, although all were essen¬ 
tially infractions against slavery, a breaking of the ban and, depending on the 



bent o! the fugitive's temperament and on the hardships he would have to 
endure, a temporary or outright rebellion. From the beginning we will of 
course immediately exclude absences of one night or even two or three days, 
of which garden and house slaves of both sexes were guilty. These were 
griots and musicians, lovers of the drum and “expert drumming,” young 
blacks going off to dances and "overstaying their time, lovers from different 
plantations incapable of separating before the sounding bell at dawn who for 
reasons which reason itself cannot explain decide to go through with a honey¬ 
moon. Or perhaps it is the case of a slave who has lost one of his master's 
tools, or let a horse get away and cannot imagine how he wiU escape punish¬ 
ment for his carelessness. Caught in an awkward dilemma, he misses roll call, 
idles along the way, or hides in a cane field. 

These unplanned short-iived flights have more in common with playing 
“hooky” from school than with marronage. Upon the voluntary return of 
the fugitive slave a simple reprimand or a rebuke of the whip would, from 
the master's viewpoint, dose the matter on such minor infractions. The 
guilty ones would be accused of vagabondage or lack of discipline. Some¬ 
times they were deprived of the relative liberty of Saturday evening and 
Sunday, severe punishment for dance lovers and young, gay females deprived 
of the calinda* And there ended the rather abstracted attention accorded 
these uncontrollable, hard-to-contain manifestations, imperatives of spirited 
youth. The proof of this is that the masters never declared these flights repre¬ 
senting not marronage but rather slave whims or fears far removed from any 
dream of some break in their state of perpetual servitude. It is the descrip¬ 
tions of Maroons and runaway slave advertisements that reflect actual mar¬ 
ronage. This real marronge, as diversffied as it was, could not be classified as 
full (grand) or minor marronage. It would be a fruitless play on words with- 
out managing to demonstrate whether or not the fleeing slave denounced by 
his master had in mind to carry through his desertion. That would be reach¬ 
ing beyond the thoughts of the masters who themselves cried for help and 
who would have abstained from such action in light of their own experiences, 
if it were a matter of fugitives already on the road back. All the same, we 
cannot believe that what some persist in calling minor (petit) marronage 3 
was for the most part mere slave vagabondage. If cases of this kind existed in 
contemporary practice—and everything indicates this—we know with suffi¬ 
cient certainty that these short-lived flights were not always the behavior of 
the individual timid, frightened slave but also of many aggressive, determined 
slaves feeling their way, groping toward the road to freedom. 

From this point on it is difficult, if not unwise, to speak of “petit” mar¬ 
ronage with imaginary reservations about the spirit, the character and the 
importance of an evasion. Especially when we learn that Maeandal, Lamour 
Deranee, and Goman, intrepid maroons to say the least, were frequently guilty 
of this type of apparently harmless flight, and that the redoubtable Maroon 

•Festival days permitted by the masters. Also a dance step. 

Different Forms of Marronage 249 

chieftain Boukman, the most celebrated, the most unsullied of all Maroon 
heroes, often ran away from the plantation of his master, Mr. Clement, 

Can there be any doubt that, from the time of his frequent escapes, 
Boukman w f as already nursing his dream of liberating his brothers from 
slavery? Was it not by dint of these continual “absences” that he succeeded 
in establishing the extraordinary network of complicity and the careful plan 
for the general uprising so well conceived and carried out? 

Can one believe that in the minds of Macandal, Lamour Derance, 
Goman, and Boukman, alt habitual recidivists in evasions, marronage was 
petit or grand —even susceptible of being thus doubly characterized? Was it, 
for them, the resultant of an ideal so singularly reduced as to be transformed 
into a simple, quickly repented wild spree? 

Certainly some Maroons did allow themselves to be picked up. Others 
returned on their own, before the fatal lapsing of thirty days within which 
indulgence was possible. Beforehand they would make contact with old-timers 
on the plantation, preparing the climate for return with minimum punishment 
assured and having their cause pleaded by a district priest or by an old 
woman close to the master's family* These preliminaries completed, the 
guilty one would return already stripped down for punishment by the whip. 
What is more, he would be publicly humiliated. During Sunday Mass he 
would be on his knees before the church door, begging pardon for “his in¬ 
subordination to the situation in which God had placed him,” The behavior 
of these hesitant or repentant Maroons was by no means indicative of con¬ 
science or resigned obedience, but rather of moral or physical failure. These 
slaves had not gone maroon with the idea that their escape w r ou!d be of 
brief duration. The fact is, they were timid, weak people, faltering in the 
face of hardships, incapable of enduring the Maroon venture. 

Perhaps at the outset they encountered risks such as hunger and anguish 
apparently too much for their strength. But no one can say that the duration 
of their escape was calculated in advance. Else, how explain the fact that 
other similar Maroons, runaways without tools or resources, living on the 
fringes of plantations, experiencing similar perils, persisted in their marron¬ 
age without stopping at this imagined parody of flight, which would have 
been much too dangerous to tempt the imagination of one and all. The 
Maroon who kept a base close to his place of servitude, who sought shelter 
from the invalid slaves* whom the colonists placed on neighboring fallow land 
to insure possession pending cultivation; the fugitive who fled with empty 
hands, who at night turned marauder in search of food or begged sustenance 
from former companions of his work gang, why at the start would this 
tentative Maroon (en lisiere) be characterized as a “petit” Maroon? 

He was a fugitive on the prowl. He scouted the terrain. He organized 
himself. He did not stray very far from those places where he knew help 
might be obtained. These tactics were not without risk, since he was every¬ 
where sought after and was not sufficiently protected against betrayal and 


the discovery of his trail. But, from his point of view to attempt great dis¬ 
tance from the very beginning of his escapade was like a leap into the un¬ 
known, too dangerous. Perhaps, like so many others, he would be able to 
live a long while m quite relative secrecy on the outskirts of a large city, 
linking up with a breadwinner found in the seething mass of homeless vaga¬ 
bonds living by their wits in the faubourgs—porters, laborers and workmen 
seeking hire or some little perquisites, hand to mouth, awaiting a break¬ 
through to stability through contacts made in the area. Such was the labor 
shortage in Saint-Domingue that after a brief period of groping about he 
would find work on a coffee plantation or in an indigo factory in a distant 
canton where the white colonial or the freedman would only too gladly over¬ 
look the shifty appearance of this libere. He would employ him at slave 
rental wages and rather than ask him for information about the confused 
origins of his liberty he would demand arduous, conscientious and useful 
labor. 4 

Like all adventures, marronage demanded its share of luck linked with 
the temperament and courage of the one who decided to attempt it. These 
factors were at play, although one could not have foreseen the evolution of 
any case of marronage much less have determined, when the attempt finished 
badly, that it was simply a matter of a Maroon with little resolution reacting 
to a change of mood, a too-great susceptibility to emotion. Besides those who 
could not morally or physically sustain the tradition, how numerous must 
have been those who succeeded and consolidated an initially most tentative 

Among these were Soliman, a Mandingo, absent six months from Limo- 
nade and seen at Morne Rouge and at Cap; the creole African Couacou, a 
mason and several years a Maroon; and others. He is suspected of having 
gotten away on a coasting vessel and of passing for a freedman in Saint-Marc, 
Vases, and Boucassin. Eleven blacks in Cap, six months Maroons. It is 
known that they are in the area about the town of Gros-Morne. A Congo, 
Sampson, seen selling saltfish at the square in Port-au-Prince; Modeste age 
twenty-two, a Congo who must be in the city and working by the day. Wearing 
an iron collar with three prongs she ran away from Mme. Simoncts at Cap. 
Princess, a Nago fifteen days a Maroon, seen selling salt provisions in the 
market in Clugny. Madeleine, between twenty-two and twenty-four years of 
age, dressmaker and embroiderer, complexion black, flat nose, white teeth, 
sagging breasts, brought up in Paris and speaks French well, seen in the 
Fond area on the plantation of the Butet heirs. They were being tracked 
down when luck intervened and their trail became confused and vanished 
without a trace. 

Many among them had contacts somewhere, a relative who would not 
refuse to give shelter and assistance. They found refuge from plantation to 
plantation in the same quarter. They turned with more confidence to the 
known relative, and it was these links of family and of belonging to the 

Different Forms of Marriage 251 

same “nation,” or else links created by their arrival in the same ship that in 
the early days brought the most active collusions to a head. 

Louis, a thirty-year-old African, five feet four inches, crippled in both 
feet, ran away sometime ago, son of one Christine a black woman claiming 
to be free, suspected of being in Dondon, Venus, age forty-five, property of 
Mr. Recouly, distiller in Cap, presumed to have rejoined her laundress 
daughter at Port-Margot. Celeste, an unbranded Congo age between seven¬ 
teen and eighteen, belonging to one Marie-Therese Merenda called Marie- 
Jcanne, lives on St. Pierre Street, This Maroon is presumed to have been 
taken in by some workman of the same nation. Charles has his natural parts 
half-eaten away. Suspected of being at Lagrou’s, a mulatto in the neighbor¬ 
hood where he was under treatment. An African ten years in the country 
now a Maroon, “it is suspected that he was debauched by fellow countrymen 
from the hills with whom he was seen on Sunday evening, [Another Maroon 
whose flight is made known with the presumption that he was lured away.] 

Adonis, a Congo five feet, ten inches, of whom it was said, “it is possible 
that he has left the area and fs plying his trade as hairdresser in another 
town.” Louis, a runaway who, “because he is very intelligent may be hiding 
his real name and passing for free in places where he is not known,” Char¬ 
lotte, a Poulard, wearing the Papillon brand, property of Mme, Papillon of 
Cap, “believed to be presently in Port-au-Prince, she frequently changes lo¬ 
cations, dresses like a free black,” Maurice, a Negro driver, runaway with two 
carters, Rene and Cacambeau. He has freedmen relatives in Grande-Riviere. 
Three hundred livres reward for his return. Pierre, age twenty-eight or twenty- 
nine, five feet, five inches tall, branded with what appeared to be Sarou on 
his left chest, “formerly belonged to Mr. Loubau, surgeon, then to Mr. 
Reinbeau, presently to Mr. Laurent, master wheelwright at Cayes, who 
acquired him from Mr. Sarou. He is believed to be in the neighborhood of 
Petit-Trou, also Asile, having a lot of relatives there—four years and some 
months a Maroon, 

Joseph, a creole black escaped from Ouanaminthe. It is believed he has 
“gone off to Cap where he is doing day's work and that he spends evenings 
with Mr. Saint-Hilaires' slaves, who have hand trucks near the sea. He also 
frequents Mr. dc Page's place in Limbe.” Charles has a mother in Limbe 
and a sister at Grande-Riviere. Joseph and Frontin, from the Colette planta¬ 
tion at Jean-Rabel, presumed to have taken the road for Cap. Jean-Bapdstc 
suspected of being in Cap, where he has a mother, or in Trou, where he 
lived for three years. Michel, called Petit-Jean, a creole from the plantation 
of one Barochin M.L. at Terrier Rouge, belonging formerly to Mr. Lagrave 
in Maribaroux, owner of the mother of said black, then to Mr. Fougere, 
whose name he bears on his chest. At the beginning of the month said black 
was seen in Port-a-Piment, where his niece, one Marcia, stays, and armed 
with a counterfeit pass, which he presented to the commandant, saying he 


paid his master for the month and requesting a pass to go to the Spanish 
sector which was refused. Notify the Mourot Brothers. 

Finally, here is a typical example of tracks covered through complicity. 
It is the case of Marie-Louise, an African creole better known as Marie- 
Goucn, servant and laundress, gone maroon 15 May 1774, running away 
from the Berson plantation. 

Said negress was recently seen in the slave quarters of Messrs. Bibcau and 
Cuperlicr of Petit-Goavc and Antoine Depas at Nippcs, We are informed 
that her father and several of her relatives are free, that they live on a little 
piece of land located in the heights of PetibGoave bequeathed to several 
of her freedmen by one Bastiennc Josephe a free black woman; that two of 
her brothers were purchased at a sale by Mr, de Bongars who transferred 
them to his coffee plantation in the Port-au-Prince area, where said black 
woman has also been seen passing herself off as free. She lived at the house 
of said Therese, free mulatto of Port-au-Prince. 5 

This form of marronage, facilitated by members of a single family or 
even of the same “nation,” hired by poor whites and freedmen in need of 
workmen, requires relationships, a network of contacts which new blacks did 
not yet have. For this reason it was more readily practiced by creole slaves 
or by those who, after years in the colony, were no longer bossales or new 
blacks and had become creolized. 

However, among both creoles and new blacks, marronage in more and 
more instances, from the earliest moment of flight takes on the character of 
an escape toward distant horizons, like a brutal rupture, a deliberate, calcu¬ 
lated, determined, organized cutting away. These Maroons did not visualize 
their breaking away in a transition stage. They relied only on their courage 
to face the venture. Many of them went off far from the cities toward safe 
hiding places in the hills or to distant cantons. Some left with a horse or 
mule or a boat. Others came away w r ith work tools, clothes, food supplies, 
and even arms. They were determined to organize their own existence and 
to dearly defend their liberty. The places where at times they were cap¬ 
tured, what they took away with them, even the condition of their escape, 
the itinerary of their flight all indicate a fierce will to free themselves from 
slavery. 5 

Sometimes they were pushed toward the decision by the hard conditions 
of their lives, the master’s cruelty, the abuse of the managers or of a driver, 
an injustice they refused to accept, or other incidental causes that hastened 
their decision to free themselves from bondage. Their option was determined 
essentially by the need to be free, to affirm “the rights which they derived 
from Nature, antedating by far the hour and the hand which made them 
slaves ” T 

The list of these slaves who chose liberty is a long one. They are people 
of flitting shadows who, with often mutilated stride, mounted toward the 

Different Forms of Marronage 253 

light. Each day in every parish and by the dozens they broke out of their 
shackles. Step by step, over paths, pursued by the police, they made their 
way toward the Spanish border or hid deep in the woods. To feed themselves 
they stole food along the routes. Some found a bit of abandoned land where 
they planted a little garden sufficient for assuring their subsistence with easy 
harvests at three-month intervals. Later they would go in search of a help¬ 
mate and children left behind at the master's when collective escape had not 
been possible, or they joined Maroon bands already living in organized 

In this latter case, these were usually new blacks, especially laborers, 
men and women. As for the creole Africans, most of them had a trade. They 
were hairdressers, bakers, candymakers, masons, sail makers, roofers, car¬ 
penters, joiners, postillions, valets, shoemakers, butchers, goldsmiths, sad¬ 
dlers, sailors, mid wives, nurses, commanders, coachmen, musicians, peddlers.® 
To live with any real security they needed contacts in the developed areas. 
They changed locations frequently, so as to cover their tracks, but when 
they could not hide out in a distant canton they tried to find work on the 
outskirts of towns where supposedly they would not be recognized. In short, 
they tried to disappear by severing all connections with their rejected past 
without always being able to follow the greater mass of their brothers, the 
field hands and the new blacks who also had disappeared in isolated moun¬ 
tains towards the coffee factories of the freedmen. 

Capture and the resulting punishments did not deter them. The number 
of recidivists was considerable. Each time descriptions of Maroons indicated 
that a slave of either sex had suffered an ear or ears cut, the fleur de fys* or 
the pillory, we can be sure that these were Africans, male or female, previ¬ 
ously punished for marronage and who had once more undertaken the 
venture. In 1783, a Mr. Curct, surgeon at Cap, reported a black woman gone 
Maroon for the hundredth time; “Rosette, a black woman of average height 
with a depression In her forehead, gone Maroon the eighth of this month 
for the hundredth time, waving a knife as she fled. ,,ff 

Are additional examples needed? We can pull them out by dozens from 
the descriptions that clearly indicate the pulsating appeal of liberty and the 
irresistible need to break the chains: Lindor a Mandingo, good cook, re¬ 
peated Maroon; Cupidon, shoemaker, twenty-four years old, four feet ten 
inches, property of the brothers Vorbes, joiners of Cap, a Maroon since two 
months ago. The slave Emanuel, Ibo, five years in the colony, speaks English, 
Dutch and Spanish. He was a Maroon in 1779 and 1780. Marie, a Congo 
age fifty, her ears cut, picked up in the hills at Cap. Jean-Raptiste, Ibo, left 
ear cut off, picked up in Bois de Lance. Lise, Congo woman branded 
Brousse and Bayonne, property of Mme. Lemoine, sworn midwife in Cap 
who has twice made statements to the court clerk of that city. Said woman is 
a midwife by trade, wears an iron collar, and has a withered right leg. Jean- 
Louis called Hector, left ear cut off, three fleurs de lys on his right shoulder 


and one on his left, Lafortunc, a Mandingo, age twenty-two, five feet three 
inches, recently whipped, carrying a chain at the end of which is a fifty- 
pound weight attached to his right leg. . * * In order better to show matron- 
age in the detail and subtlety of methods of organization, we offer here a 
most interesting document: 

Statement made by Mr, Lamothe Vedel about his negro maroons and 
the facts resulting from their marronage, 6 April 1791: Andre, a Mine; Paul, 
Coffi, Couacou, Jacot, Tranquil in, creoles; Cabi, Valeri, Sans-Nom, Casimir, 
La Fortune, Basilc, Phanor, Hilaire, Congos; Cat in, Urgeie, Congos; Justine, 
creole mulatress, listed as niaroons since August 1788. 

These slaves belonging to Messrs* Lamothe Vedel and his ward Duroy 
have returned several times since their first marronage, then finally taken 
off* They have always frequented the heights of Fel. A slave woman belong¬ 
ing to the Chevalier Grcgoire picked up at Mr. Dubois 1 , resident of Fel, 
lawyer for the Lillancourt estate declared she had left a band of maroons 
belonging to Mr, Lamothe Vedel on the plantation of Mr. Dubois where 
they have planted a considerable amount of coffee and cotton; said declara¬ 
tion, taken by Mr* Dubois is signed by F. Gregoire and several citizens of 
FeL The next day the said Justine was picked up on the Lillancourt planta¬ 
tion and since that time has left again. There has always been reason to 
suspect that the Negroes were taken in and sheltered in the slave quarters 
inasmuch as since the month of August 1785, in spite of Mr. Lamothe 
VedeLs diligence in pursuit no knowledge of their whereabouts has ever 
been unearthed. During the night Monday to Tuesday March 29, Mr. Duroy 
went with a neighbor to the hut of Zephir, Mr, Dubois 1 valet on plantation 
Lillancourt, where he found his slave woman Henrietta, three years a Ma¬ 
roon* Because of the disturbance caused by this Black [Zephir] he was pre¬ 
vented from finding out if any others were there although Mr* Dubois assured 
him that the slave Coffi was there laden with a basket of meat and armed with 
a gun. Mr* Duroy took his Negress to Mr. Lamothe Vedel who, after listen¬ 
ing to his ward, decided to come to Fel to repeat his previous requests to 
Mr. Dubois to put an end to the confusion his slave was causing in his 
work gang* As a result of which, Monday Ax>ril 4 Mr. Lamothe Vedel 
started out with Mr* Noel, police provost. Outraged by the seizure of the 
said Henriette at Mr. Dubois 1 and informed that their master was to return 
to Fel the Blacks positioned themselves five hundred feet from the planta¬ 
tion and as soon as he was some three feet away the Negro Andre, stomach 
to the ground and armed with machete and gun, brought the latter to his 
cheek. Mr. Lamothe Vedel, unarmed, throwing himself to the far side of 
his horse cried out to Mr, Noel to send him one of his pistols. Mr. Noel 
thought it wiser to persuade the Negro to yield, promising him pardon; 
immediately the Negro trained his rifle on Mr* Noel, holding thus until he 
was out of pistol range. The absence of such a large number of Negroes 
causing infinite delay in the work of Mr* Lamothe and the danger to which 
he was exposed since his runaway slaves vzcrc armed and wicked enough 
to attempt his life moved him to ask the residents of Fel and Sal-Trou to 
have concern for the situation into which the slow down on his work was 

Different Forms of Marriage 255 

plunging him and to have frequent searches made of their slave quarters, 
He promised high reward for persons who turn in any of his slaves to him. 10 

In response to the accusations Dubois, by way of correction* had the 
notarized statement of the slave Rose printed: 

We the undersigned certify that this morning at nine o'clock we saw and 
listened to Rose, a Congo belonging to Mr. Gregoire resident of Cayes, and 
a Maroon for more than a year, detained and questioned by us as to where 
she had been during all the time of her marronage. She told us she had spent 
more than six months working for the Negro Lafoucault of Plantation Lilan- 
eour who kept her at his place in the Ploitier ravine where under his orders 
she planted for him coffee, cotton, corn, etc*; and perceiving that this Negro 
no longer put in an appearance she had withdrawn to Guillomont Heights. 
Executed at Fesle on the Lilancour plantation, this 26 November 1789. . . . 

My Negress named above likewise delivered to me word for word what 
she swore to in the presence of the above signed witnesses and further told 
me that the Negro Lafoucault had also harbored at the same place during 
the same period a slave woman belonging to Mr. Lamothe and a Negro of 
Adrien-Mathurin’s named Nangout and that they all had worked together 
or alternatively on said property since the first hurricane of '88 up to the 
time the receiver gave orders for them to leave promptly and go elsewhere; 
that Mr. Dubois had undoubtedly seen him since he had had him picked 
up at his quarters where he was ill to have him put in stocks and that for¬ 
tunately he had escaped from the hands of Mr. Taimin who was leading him 
off and had become a Maroon like them so as to avoid punishment Mr. 
Dubois was preparing for him. My Negress also told me that this rogue had 
all her old clothes and four gourdes. 1 informed Mr. Dubois who immedi¬ 
ately and in our presence caused to be opened a chest and a box which he 
had seized belonging to said Negro, in w r hich the woman recognized and 
revealed to us handkerchiefs bearing her stamp RS as she had said and 
three skirts w’hich she took. , . * I certify I heard the above statement ex¬ 
tracted by the Negro Lafoucault from the slave Rose property of Mr. Grc* 
goire and have arrested some Maroons who declared they had persisted in 
marronage upon the advice of a Black named Nangout belonging to Adrien* 
Mathurin. This statement being extracted by the same Negro Lafoucault 
W'ho had had a large garden planted by Blacks belonging to me wdio were 
Maroons these fifteen months. 

S, Delamothe Vedci 

As for the new blacks, examples of their continued escapes are at this 
point multiplied to the extent that some special attention must be reserved 
for the marronage of newly debarked slaves, hostile to slavery from the 
onset. Those who before us have studied marronage have not given proper 
attention to the escapes of new blacks, most suggestive indeed with respect 
to the raw, categoric rejection of slavery they represent* or in terms of the 
complicity from which these slaves must necessarily have benefited. Once 


again wc are astonished that these very important aspects have not to this 
point further challenged the curiosity of researchers inasmuch as the new 
blacks were dominant in Saint-Doniinguc marronage. The lists follow. 11 
Simply to illustrate this chapter with several examples, here is a summary 
of new blacks publicized as Maroons or captured for the single month of 
January 1786, or, to be more precise, from 4 to 20 January 1786—a period 
of a little more than fifteen days: 

—A new slave, Thiamba, twenty-four, five feet two inches, doesn’t know 
his name or his master’s, A new Congo black, twenty, four feet ten inches, 
doesn’t know his own name nor his master’s. A new black, an Ibo, branded 
Latoison St. Marc, doesn’t know his name or his master’s. Two new blacks, 
sturdily built, carrying marks of the country on their faces, unable to tell 
their names or the master’s name. Three new Congos, 1. Ffeury brand, un¬ 
able to tell their names or that of their master. Five new Congos, four of 
them carrying the brand V . Piron and the other, stocky, red skinned, showing 
on his buttocks the brand of the vessel Usheck, ran away in a boat on Sunday 
night the first of the month. A new Negro of the Kiffe nation with pierced 
ears detained at Vieux Bourg. Two new Negroes of the same nation branded 
Detagrange, picked up at Fredoches. A new black, a Congo, with the Gautier 
brand, wearing an iron collar, brought back from the Spanish sector. A new 
black, a Congo, picked up in Valli&re. 

—A new Mandingo black, lour feet, eleven inches, brought back from 
the Spanish sector. 

—A new black, a Congo branded F f brought back from the Spanish 

—A new Negro, five feet, one inch, age thirty, brought back from the 
Spanish sector, 

—A new Congo black, five feet, age twenty-five, brought back from the 
Spanish sector. 

—Two new Congo blacks, Maroons since the third current, with a third 
Negro who enticed them from Port-Lance plantation, Quartier Marin. 

—A new Negro, nation unknown, carrying the Lalanie brand, unable 
to tell his name or that of his master. 

A new Negro branded Bargues, age forty-five, height five feet, picked up 
at La Soufrierc* 

—A new black picked up at Bonnet. 

—A new black branded with a F.5., light-skinned, picked up in 

—A new Negro picked up on the twelfth, age eighteen, doesn’t know 
his name or that of his master. 

—A new Negro woman, Caradeux brand, unable to give her name or 
her master’s. 

—Thomas, can’t give his master’s name, 

—A new Negro of unknown nation, branded Lalane. 

Different Forms ol Marronag© 257 

—A new Congo, age twenty-two, five feet, one inch, well built, hand¬ 
some face, runaway from Pointe de Leogane, 

—A new Black branded M.N., age twenty-eight, brought back from 
the Spaniards, A new Congo black, wearing the marks of his country ail over 
his body, brought back from the Spanish, 

—Orcan and Backa, new Mandingans, branded Legrand, runaways from 

—Two new male slaves, Minas, runaways from Fort-Dauphin. 

—Two new Nagos and a Taquoua, unable to give their master’s name, 

—A new' female slave, branded Dubuisson. 

—A new Sosso Negro, branded G, Lace above Saint-Marc. 

This little score sheet of marronage by new blacks for a period of ap¬ 
proximately fifteen days is, without doubt, sufficiently eloquent to obviate 
any need for adding to it the probably large number of bossales already cre- 
olized, whom we deliberately set aside without attempting to recall that it 
contains only Maroons declared by their masters or runaways never recap¬ 
tured, In fact, this form of evasion—marronage by new blacks—far from 
being a manifestation of the truant school, is positive evidence of true mar¬ 
ronage, hostility to slavery. How conjure up still again some vague pre¬ 
dominance of short-lived runaways, when marronage was committed pre¬ 
dominantly by new blacks, a great many of whom were newly debarked and 
ignorant of the language and geography of the country? 

Finally, there were those Maroons who lived in organized bands in the 
mountains. Periodically they came down to the plains to steal provisions, 
pillage warehouses, and carry away livestock. These unceasing raids were 
sufficiently alarming to inspire in advertisements of sales the following type of 
assurance: “For sale two adjacent plantations with more than forty houses 
on them, excellent for coffee growing, located at the foot of Grand Bois 
mountain; they are secure from incursions by Negro Maroons.’ 113 

On the way of life and the development of the collective, organized, and 
aggressive marronage so threatening to the security and property of the 
privileged, we will return at length in the historical account of marronage. 
These bands were constantly fed or reinforced by desertions of certain groups 
of slaves preferring the greater breath of a liberty so long withheld, so pas¬ 
sionately denied. How could they otherwise have kept their cadres alive? 

We move on now to other questions equally interesting: How and with 
whom did the Maroons run away? 


How and With Whom 
the Maroons Ran Away 

MAROONS, using every guileful resource, made their escape by day and 
night, by small boat, mounted or afoot, by land or sea, individually or in 
groups, carrying provisions or “completely naked," with or without a cent* 

It would be difficult to circumscribe in their wide diversity the circum¬ 
stances surrounding these escapes of which all slave owners were victims. 
Not even generals or prisons were immune to marronage: 

A well-built black, hairy body, especially the legs; he is recovering from 
an inflammation of the lungs and has plasters on his left side. This negro 
belongs to the General. Hector, a Congo arrested on the fifteenth, escaped 
from jail the twenty-ninth, brought back the same day, Pierre, called Demurg, 
age forty, escaped from the Port-de-Paix jail. Notify the Executor of High 
Justice, Another Pierre escaped from jail is searched for by Mr. Gascary, 
prison keeper. Madeleine, age thirty a creole, property of Jacques Drouillard 
MX. of Matheux escaped from the Mirebalais jail. 

There are runaways by sea, who flee by small craft or rowboats, braving 
a thousand dangers in the search for some shore where one might have 
leisure to be free. Some were picked up clinging to a rock after being ship¬ 
wrecked* Others, thanks to the winds, were caught off Jamaica shores. As 
they set out on their venture “over liquid routes," none knew for certain 
where they were headed* It is hardly likely that they knew of the existence 
of, much less how to reach, the little island of St* Vincent, where groups of 
Maroons had succeeded in establishing themselves as free people among 
the Caribs whom very quickly they dominated. In search of a land of free¬ 
dom they took to the open sea, at the mercy of the winds, trusting their 
dream to the fragility of a boat. 13 

Of all the desperate attempts the slaves decided upon to escape from 
bondage, these were virtually suicide operations. We can guess the dramatic 
aspects of these flights in evident search for liberty: 

—Pompcy, a Congo sailor, runaway from aboard Les Trois Amis , Salomon, 
Senegalese, jumped ship from the schooner La Petite Lise of Jercmie* Jacques, 



a deserter from the brigantine Lianne, arrested on the outskirts of Borgnc, A 
black who escaped by jumping overboard from a vessel anchored in the 
roadstead off Saint-Marc. A slave at sea in a pirogue seven leagues from 

—An Ibo, Antoine, no brand, age twenty-four, five feet, picked up at sea in 
a rowboat near Jamaica and brought back to Mole, 

—A Congo, Pierrc-Louis, and Guillaume, an Amine, runaways in a mahog¬ 
any rowboat. 

—The creole Maurice "wearing a bandage, in a little boat with a trunk full 
of effects. 1 ” 

—Four blacks gone maroon in a rowboat fully rigged. 

—A young Congo, age twelve to thirteen, runaway in a pirogue made of a 
single piece of cypress wood with a paddle and a bit of tarpaulin. 

—Manuel gone maroon "in a small sloop.” 

—Three Negroes fled in a brand new mapou* rowboat at dark of night, 

—A vessel bound for Saint-Marc sights "two negroes on a rock following 
their shipwreck,” 

—A Sosso, Charles, age twenty-two, after fifteen years in Guadeloupe spends 
a year in France, is sent to Saini-Dominguc and escapes from the ship. Said 
Negro is a hairdresser and has the marks of his country on his face. 

—Two new blacks from Gold Coast, no brand, escaped from aboard Le 
Lion , a slave vessel. Notify Lory Plombard in Cap. 

—Jean and Honorc, Bambaras, both the property of one Jean-Baptiste 
Grammont, N.L., of Caracol arrested in Tortuga. 

—Dalman, an Ibo, and a Mamlingo, Jean, thought to have left Saint-Marc 
in a rowboat with some American sailors en route to Port-au-Prince, 

—Harry, a Senegalese sailor, escaped from the English brigantine La 
Catherine . 

—Six Congos, four with, two without brands, gone maroon from Gonaives 
on the night of 31 May in a mapou rowboat carrying two sails and oars. A 
new Negro, a Mai ini be runaway with fourteen or fifteen other blacks in a 
stolen rowboat. 

—Congos Medar and Jolicoeur, suspected of having been abducted by the 
occupants of a rowboat, set out from Petite-Riviire. 

—Three blacks stole a rowboat at the entrance of Baradaires Bay and joined 
four black sailors belonging to Mr. Pascal, a coaster. 

—Achillc, a creole hairdresser, age thirty, turned Maroon. He has been 
seen with a mulatto who proposes to blacks on their way to the roadstead 
with vegetables to take them aboard a vessel. . . . 

Some of these flights suggest the complicity of professionals at slave 
evasions, contraband sharks and touters with enticing promises. This docs not 
rule out unaided escapes, even rebellions, mutinies and plots organized at sea 

How and With Whom the Maroons Ran Away 261 

by the slaves. For example, there was the mutiny of colonist Lavalette’s 
slaves whose dramatic adventure Is given as follows; 

The King’s corvette Le Ballou anchored at Cap the seventh of this month. 
She had been sent from Martinique to bring the slaves of one Lavalette 
who had sailed from Cap in a vessel he owned and in which he planned to 
return to Fort-Dauphin along with Mr. Sicard a rich, veteran colonist who 
had embarked there with a little mulatto boy and a young servant. The blacks 
who were sailors aboard the vessel conceived the project of assassinating 
their master and Mr. Sicard and tossing them overboard. They carried out 
this heinous crime. Not knowing what next to do they trusted to the winds 
which carried them to the English island of Tortol where they were ar¬ 
rested, sent back to Martinique and thence to Cap there to be executed. 14 

By order of the Conseil Superieur du Cap dated 28 October Jean-Picrrc 
age fourteen was condemned to be hanged and burned (he was Mr. Sicard’s 
young domestic). As for the actual authors of the crime the blacks Leveiile, 
Pharaon, Mercure, Luc and Azor, they “were condemned to apologize with 
a sign board.* The first two were then to have their right hands cut off as 
their master’s assassins and all five were to be broken alive and to die on the 
wheel, their bodies thrown in the fire and their ashes to the wind." 15 

The slaves who fled over roads to the mountains, to other towns, toward 
distant cantons, or to the Spaniards were of course more numerous. They 
will be mentioned, with specific attention being given cither to the booty 
which they carried off in their escape or to the places where they were retaken. 

Generally, the slave ran away alone. Less often but nevertheless fairly 
frequently there were group runaways whether by land or sea or from ships 
in port; 

—During the night ten or twelve Mandingans—masons, joiners, bakers or 
confectioners, all rather young, from twenty-two to twenty-six, fled from 
Mr. Roy’s, a contractor in Cap. 

—Two males and a female ran away from Mr. Parret’s of Port-au-Prince. 

—A Bambara woman and six males, Fons, Cangas, Mondongos, deserted 
Mr. Thibaut’s plantation in Plaisance all at the same time. 

—Five black sailors pulled away from Baradaircs Bay in a rowboat. 

—The public prosecutor of Brousses complained of the desertion of four 
creole and Arada slaves. 

*—The cruel Lejeune of Plaisance lost three Congos at the same time. 

—Mr. Denugon of Mirebalais was searching for Louis, Jacques, Marie- 
Claire, all creoles, and Agathe, a Congo; Mr. Bernardon of Vareux was 
searching for the Nago Maurice, Alerti, a Mondongo, and the Congo, 

* Convicts were often exposed in public with a placard on which their crimes were 


—A blind man, age forty, and Angelique, his forty-five-year-old companion 
were brought back from the Spanish sector. 

—Mmc. de Raymond of Petit-Trou de Nippes announced the flight of seven 
of her slaves, Congo, Cbtocoli, Mondongo, Agauia, creole; one completely 
nude, another with a gun and machete. 

—Michel, a notary, tried to recapture Arnottc, a creole woman, fled with 
her two mulatto sons, Jean and Jcan-Baptiste, ages twenty and twenty-five. 
Sans-Quartier, Janvier, Ignace, Titus and Alexandre [who are] Nago, Con¬ 
ges, creole and Caplaous escaped from Madame Dufay’s plantation at 

—From Port-i-Piment there was announced the flight of eleven blacks, 
property of Delarue Le Goux. 

—In Cap, Rose disappeared, also her daughter Magdcleine age twenty-two 
and the latter’s child, a little boy of two years. 

—Five new blacks escaped together from the wharf at Caracoh Six others— 
Congo, I bo, Mina and Mondongo, escaped from Mr. Thezan’s in Port-au- 

These examples, which we could have amplified, were drawn at random 
from a summary of Maroons for the year I783. 1 * We are thus aware of the 
frequency of group escapes. They would further increase in 1791, a period 
during which we find considerably more group desertions from work gangs 
as the general revolt drew nearer, as evidenced in these examples from the 
months of June and July: 

Jcan-Louis a creole black and premier driver, no brand, has run away 
from Ganetierc near Port-au-Prince along with ten men and w-onien slaves 
belonging to Mr. Robert. 

Sentence without appeal of the Seneschal's Court of Port-au-Prince con¬ 
demning a black and a mulatto slave from the Fortin Bellanton plantation 
in Cul-de-Sac to be broken and six other Africans of the same plantation to 
be hanged for murdering the comander and forcing the work gang to revolt. 

In Grande Feuilles, dependency of Jcremie, nine strong males of the 
Bambara and Mandingo nations and two women a total of eleven slaves 
have gone Maroon from the plantation of Mr. Kanon, citizen of Jer6mie. 

Nevertheless, individual flights were the most frequent due to the very 
fact that marronage was ventured more often by new blacks without benefit 
of extensive ties. Quite often, the slave seems to have hesitated in the face of 
the danger implicit in an evasion and the possibility of a denunciation which 
would cause the aborting or delaying of his or her project, and bring on 
terrible punishment. 

Group flights were by families, mother and children, husband and concu¬ 
bine, an entire family, or even a group of slaves of different nations joining 

How and With Whom the Maroons Ran Away 263 

together for a collective escape. For example, some drivers ran away with a 
group of slaves. Rarely did a driver escape alone. Almost always it was dur¬ 
ing the night that field slaves and factory workers ran off. House slaves, 
when they did not practice a craft that freed them from surveillance, had the 
option by day of being on commission. One such slave had, on the very 
clay of his flight, killed a pig he had been fattening for months. 17 A clever 
trick to allay any suspicion. Others who could read and write faked letters 
indicating that their masters had sent them out on a job. Armed with fake 
or genuine pass, they could move about freely, immune from constant police 
controls. These letters served so well as alibis that a printed form was devised 
which reduced the number of counterfeits and simplified matters for the 
many poor whites who couldn’t read or write. An announcement “addressed 
to the inhabitants” gave full details about these notes: 

In order to prevent the unfortunately too frequent counterfeiting of Slave 
Passes and for the convenience of the inhabitants several people have had 
some of these printed in the following form: 

"Pass this Negro (or this Negress) to whom I have given permission to 

go to-and return to the plantation-- 

On-— this-17 

On - this-176 

So that Negroes will not so easily lose these passes they arc printed on paper 
5V2 by VA> They are priced at thirty livres a thousand or four escalins the 
hundred. 1 ® 

Not too much is known about why this attempt was short lived. The 
evidence indicates, however, that Maroons continued to use hand-written 
passes, legitimate and counterfeit, faked declarations of liberty and enfran¬ 
chisement, faked baptism papers and certificates of all types which, with 
cleverness and luck, made it possible convincingly to carry off, as they used 
to say in the colony, “the role of a free black." The colonists never ceased 
requesting the arrest of blacks “regardless of passes they might be carrying 
since these blacks know how to read and write.” 

Michaut claims he is searching for some stray horses and under the pre¬ 
text of having lost the one he got from his master requests passes for his 
moving about. 

Cupidon, a Nago, two months a Maroon had been sent on a job from 
Cap to Gonatves with an eight-day pass. Creole Elizabeth Jenny, unbranded, 
age seventeen, five feet two or three inches, a very pretty face, eight months 
pregnant. She stole four dozen napkins from her mistress Mme. Mathon de 
Brottes. She is to be arrested regardless of the irregular baptismal certificate 
she is carrying. 

—Lindor, a creole, had an eight-day pass. 


—A Congo black, a hairdresser, missing with an eight-day billet d'herbages* 
—Request was made to arrest four Maroons “although they carry passes/’ 
—Prince, a creole baker embarked in the Limonade passage, had no pass 
from his master. 

—Pierre, a creole runaway from Chevalier, the innkeeper, with a pass. 

—A Congo hairdresser, Jean, by virtue of his intelligence good at passing 
for a free Negro. Stole twenty-five French gold louis from the chevalier 

—Rene, twenty-four- to twenty-five-year-old creole, left the Lavcrne planta¬ 
tion at Mirnbalais armed with a passport she must have found plus one she 
already had. 

—Jean-Louis, hairdresser, armed with a fake pass or freepaper which sup¬ 
posedly was given him. 

Some Maroons changed their names: Laforlune, claiming to be a free 
silversmith often changed his name. Scapin took the name Etienne, This 
Congo, Scapin, has been a fugitive for three months and has some female 
contacts at Cap near Bac. Bontems, a Mozambique, frequents female com¬ 
pany near Trou and changes his name often. Rosette, a creole previously 
sold under the name Agnes. 

Some women in flight disguised themselves as men: F£licit£, very tall, 
with white skin spots, suspected of disguising herself as a man and of hiding 
out on Mr. Arthaud’s little place next to the hospital, Fatine, a griffone, sup¬ 
posedly free, perhaps even disguising herself as a man, sometimes poorly, 
sometimes well, dressed occasionally barefoot, at other times wearing shoes. 
Many, with no proof claimed to be free, especially mulattoes taking ad¬ 
vantage of a skin color that played in their favor, and acted out this status. 
Some claimed to have been granted freedom in reward for active military 

—The creole Claude, five feet seven inches, a violinist and good shepherd, 
for three years a Maroon, claims to be free though the property of Mr. 
Lemcillcur Dumornet of Trou Caiman. 

—Jean and his mulatto brother, ages twenty and twenty-four respectively, 
hairdresser and postillion, unbranded, Maroons since fifteen days ago, passing 
for free men under the pretext of having participated in the Savannah Cam¬ 
paign** under command of Count Estaing. Messrs. Lory, businessmen in 
Cap, to be notified. 

—Joseph Antoine, claiming to be free in recognition of having served the 
King of Spain during the stay of Spanish troops in Cap, picked up on Vigic 
Hill wearing a two-pronged iron collar. 

—Jean-Phillipc, passing for free and living in Leogane. A black woman 
passing for free; she had been bought at the Fort-Dauphin jail. 

* A pass to go out gathering fodder for animals. 

** U.S. War of Independence. 

How and With Whom the Maroons Ran Away 265 

Sometimes the clothes worn by the Maroon revealed his condition, 
whether he was a domestic or field slave, attached to a wealthy colonist or 
the property of a poor white. Some Maroons wore their Sunday garb during 
the height of the day: white shirt and calico shorts. Some wore hats and shoes. 
For their flight field slaves, we suspect, would have preferred to wear the 
best they had. Was not the correct dress appropriate for later acting out the 
role of a free person? Other slaves were not able to prepare accordingly, 
either because they had only their work rags or because the hasty circum¬ 
stances of an escape did not permit improvement in dress. We find them 
“entirely naked” or covering the nakedness with only a simple candale: 10 

—A black belonging to the General, wearing a shirt and long gingham pants 
with red and blue checks and a rcd-and-blue-striped handkerchief. Three 
new Sosso blacks, gone maroon on the eighth from Agrdable Vue, Prat 
Desprcs 1 property, located on Morne de l’HApital, near Port-au-Prince. 
Notify Mr. Prat Despres at above address (an area presently called Bellevue- 
Desprts). These slaves arc dressed in brown cassocks, wear long beards. 

—An Ibo, Mars, a runaway with an iron helmet, 

—Modeste, a young Mcsurade, dressed in a linen shirt and gingham skirt, 

—Zamorc, a Congo cook, quite stout and very nimble, runaway, with a 
bundle of clothes for changes. 

—A new Bibi black, dressed in new gingham shirt and Cholct* shorts. 

—Pierrc-Paul, a creole, wearing simple shorts of coarse linen, 

—A new Congo black, gone maroon with two changes of coarse linen and a 
white handkerchief w'ith little blue squares. 

—Cesar, an eightecn-year-old Congo, dressed in a military coat and gingham 
shorts with small squares pattern and a red handkerchief on his head. 
—The Congo, Neptune, ugly face, sheepish in appearance usually wearing 
an old jacket or soldier’s coat of white duck, is a charcoal vendor and dock 
hand, wears the marks of his country on his chest. 

—Couacou, Quiamba, and a Congo, Frangoise, both carrying two or three 
complete changes of clothing. Zulniis, age twelve, dressed in new duck shorts 
and gingham shirt. 

—Joseph, twenty-five years old, Congo, wearing a coarse shirt and long linen 
pants. Joseph Antoine, speaks French, passes as free, neatly dressed, wearing 

—A new black walked away from the La Fossette Shops covering himself 
with a woolen waistband. 

—A Poulard, Joseph, runaway, wearing his blue livery coat with red trim¬ 
ming, collar and shoulder-boards trimmed in gold; he has or might have a 
sword or saber with a copper hill and guard. 

—Silvain, a mulatto, usually wears a handkerchief on his head; his hair is 

* Material made in Cholet, 


short and curly* A saddler by profession, he is literate and passes as free 

—Thisbe, a new Congo, carrying the ship’s brand L.P A. on her left arm, 
the first two letters being interlaced, dressed in a man’s linen shirt and a 
gingham skirt. 

—Four new blacks arrived in the country six weeks ago* Each wears a full 
white or Breton linen shirt; three wear coarse linen, and one, fine quality 
linen culottes; all wear hats. 

—A young Ibo dressed in a large patterned gingham shirt with a white 
linen collar and a blue head handkerchief stamped D.M.L . in interlaced 

—Two new blacks from the cargo of the Rosalie, presently on sale wearing 
gingham shirts with a pattern of blue checks, linen shorts, big black hat and 
white hat with red and blue checks. 

In addition to linen and other clothing, slaves carried off food supplies 
to assure their existence for the first few days: Zamore, a Congo cook, 
escaped with a basket of provisions. Others escaped with a sack of biscuits, 
a supply of oil, and other items. 

Examples of thefts of food supplies are rarely provided. Certainly, the 
masters could not be robbed of food supplies which they never or seldom 
kept for distribution. Could another factor have been that the runaways, 
instead of loading themselves down with supplies, preferred to depend on 
pillaging gardens close to their hiding places or perhaps on getting help 
from friends and acquaintances? 

Nevertheless, some Maroons took with them the spoils of pillage, thereby 
providing means for future bartering or for meeting immediate needs—linen, 
tools, “ironwork, hatchets, bill hooks, knives,” 20 

—Venus, a Foeda woman, gone away with valuable merchandise from one 
Marianne Montbrun, M.L., a merchant on Place de LMntendance in Port- 

—Comet, a Congo peddler, eight months a Maroon, with a packet of mer¬ 

—Helene, a creole, carried off “about twenty-five morning wraps, thirty or 
forty handkerchiefs, a number of other items and Charles, a black known as 
Jean Baptiste/’ 

—Jean, a Cap creole age twenty-five‘to twenty-six, left with a fake pass. He 
was seen in Dondon with a marc loaded with merchandise. (Similarly, black 
carpenters, roofers or coppersmiths, declared as having run off with all their 

—The Congo Barthelemy, age thirty-two, escaped from Plantation Cazin de 
la Brosse on Montagne Noire with a whip, a pruning knife and a cutlass. 
Couaminan, an Aguia, and the creole Alexander, a light-skinned cook with 
a slight beard and speaking excellent French, escaped from police officer Mr. 

How and With Whom the Maroons Ran Away 267 

Robert with a variety of merchandise consisting of hardware, dusting powder, 
handkerchiefs, and cigars. 

_Telemaquc, a Mcsurade, in the colony since childhood escaped with his 

linen and a machete. 

Some ran away with mounts so as to facilitate their moving about: 

—Guigct, a one-eyed black woman of thirty headed for the plain with a she- 
ass and an eight-day pass. No news of her in eight months. 

__Jean-Pierre retrieved with a marc and a stubborn little ass. 

_Creoles Rene and Ambroise left with a horse, machete and pistol. 

—Pierre-Louis, a mulatto slave, white shirt, gingham pants, mounted on a 
gray mare. 

—Cesar, carried off a ram and a loaded pack mule. 

—Jean, escaped with two horses he was leading to water. 

—Amerique, an Ibo, escaped with a saddled and bridled horse. 

—A runaway slave who carried of! two untamed mules from the Spanish 

_A black woman and her two mulatto daughters, “all three without brands 

and never having felt the lash left with all their linen, several articles, and a 
tamed mare.” 

—The Arada, Adonis, ran off with a mule. 

The boldest ones, determined to stand against all obstacles, escaped 
with arms to defend their liberty or with fowling pieces for hunting guinea 
hens and other small game:- 1 

—The creole, Etienne, a cook and son of a freedman formerly the provost 
of the armory in Cap, three weeks a Maroon, wearing an iron collar, carry¬ 
ing arms and carrying the marks of his nation on his face. 

—Jean-Baptistc, called Lindor, age twenty-five, armed with a pistol and a 
saber marked Agenois. 

— Jcan-Louis and Jacques, Congos, twenty-two and twenty-five respectively, 
picked up a league oil Limonade in a boat, armed with two oars, a gun, a 
full powder bag, a sack of biscuits, and two worsted blankets. 

—-Three blacks, one a driver, escapees from Plantation Fessard, parish of 
Port-au-Prince, “after having smashed furniture and buildings, seized all the 
firearms and all munitions, taking with them fourteen other plantation 
blacks.”- 1 

—A new black picked up with a gun. 

-—A creole, Joseph, armed with a machete. 

—A Congo no use slave, Saint-Jean, a runaway taking with her a machete 
with a horn handle pierced at the end. 

—Gahoult, carried off a rifle, powder, lead, and balls. 


—The Poulard, Joseph, believed to be carrying a machete or saber with a 
copper hilt and guard. 

—A Thiamba black, carried away a gun and hatchet. 

—Zabelh from Plantation Pivert in Saint-Marc, wearing an iron mask. 

From African times the favorite game of the blacks was the traditional 
stick bout—a violent contest requiring for victory a combination of skill and 
the strongest of arms. Likewise, the slave’s inseparable tool was his machete, 
which he embellished when possible with a horned handle, sharpened with 
love, and held in affection as though it were a faithful companion. Hence, 
the militia hunting runaway slaves first armed themselves with gun and ball, 
and expeditions against Maroons were always completely organized. 

In addition to the lists of slaves condemned to death for having killed 
their masters or mistresses many Maroons were described as bearing arms 
or arrows, which, from their African days, they had known how to make 
themselves. Without doubt this detail was not always made public to other 
slaves, also armed, perhaps for fear of discouraging in advance those who 
from time to time might, either for the reward or simply for reasons of 
solidarity, take part in the hunts. In any case, if the slave had carried off a 
gun just for hunting and securing fresh game, we can believe he did not 
refrain from using it in defense. There is considerable evidence of saber and 
firearm wounds suffered by Maroons captured and taken to jail. In such 
cases there can be no doubt that the captures were difficult and effected only 
by dint of carbine and hand-to-hand fighting. 

After considerable research in the National Archives in Paris, Pierre de 
Vaissierc concluded that . . curiously enough many of the blacks were 
armed.” Already in the earliest days of colonization Father Dutertre had de¬ 
clared that Maroons "boldly raid the plantations and take everything. Some 
even manage to make off with their masters’ swords and guns.” 33 And Father 
Labat tells of Maroons wounded or killed when they refused to surrender at 
the time of capture: 

When they arc surprised in the woods or in flight they may be fired on if 
they refuse to surrender; if they arc taken after being wounded, so long as 
not mortally so, the reward is the same (500 pounds of sugar). If wc kill 
them we arc cleared upon making a statement under oath with the official 
of the area or with the clerk having jurisdiction. 24 

Father Margat of Cap confirms the practice of arms use by Maroons: 

There arc even times when having been able to procure arms they band 
together during the day, set up ambushes and fall upon passers-by; so much 
so that it is often necessary to mobilize sizeable detachments to stop their 
highway robberies and bring them back to duty. 33 

How and With Whom the Maroons Ran Away 269 

To demonstrate the frequency of this use of arms by rebel slaves one resi¬ 
dent, a Mr, Mignon, complains in these terms in 1727: 

We give them liberty to go hunting for us and so wc provide them ma¬ 
chetes, ball, powder, lead. Who prevents them from stockpiling these and 
from assembling two to three hundred in each sector and using their mess 
time while some five or six leagues away, w r ho I repeat will prevent them 
during that time from making the rounds of plantations and carrying off the 
remaining arms to arm other negroes! . . , The blacks would have to be 
extremely dull-witted not to attempt to recover by force their liberty. 2 ® 

The Africans will prove—and with what ardor!—that they were not by 
any means "extremely dull-witted” and Mr, Mignon will have been credited 
with having foreseen as early as 1727 the extraordinary epic of the Saint* 
Domingue Maroons. 

Maroon Hiding Places; 
Sanctuaries, Asylums 

SECURE HIDING PLACES were not lacking in the colony with its still-vast 
stretches of woodlands and the ubiquitous mountains which ringed most of its 
parishes* To these advantages were added the relative proximity of the Spanish 
border, collusion based on fellowship and common interests, the anonymity 
of the swarming crowds in the suburbs of the large cities, the system of trans¬ 
portation between parishes by land or sea, and finally the disappearance of all 
fugitive traces over the long marches to distant cantons or mountain heights 
sheltering organized bands. 

The choice depended on the temperament and the capabilities of the 
Maroon, as much as on the evolution of the escape. If, in spite of these safe 
hiding places we note there was “an important number of maroons captured,” 
it must not be forgotten that the descriptions are mute on the matter of num¬ 
bers, as they indicate neither the number of Maroons not recaptured nor, 
especially, the total number of slaves in marronage, These advertisements, im¬ 
portant as they might be with their examples conveying, after all, the most 
suggestive approach to the ways and means and the development of mar¬ 
ronage, are only indicative in nature. As it is, they reveal (and here we need 
not invoke the dangers inherent in such a reduced sampling) that the task of 
recapturing all the fugitives was a striking failure* 

As previously shown, the number of Maroons vanished and impossible to 
trace is considerably greater than that of slaves captured during flight. For 
the unadventurous, too timid, reflective slave, the closest hiding place was on 
the very plantation where he had decided to break discipline by henceforth 
refusing to work for and to be dependent on a master. He remained hidden in 
the cane fields, finding refuge in the still-fallow plantation areas where old 
slaves grown gray with service were closing out their lives as watchmen for 
the land. The network of complicity thickened to extend itself to meetings at 
night with former comrades in the field. It was not rare for the fugitive thus 
to find possible help for supplies, even a hiding place for sleeping in the slave 
quarters. He would give his services to the driver, paying him thus for his 
silence or he would help a brother in the watering and transplanting of his 
personal garden. They would secretly provide him with food against the day 



when he would decide to do his stealing afield on his own, so as to escape 
when possible this fragile, dangerous existence full of anguish, secret comings 
and goings and of incessant precautions in a collusion about which there was 
oo surety as to duration and completeness of loyalty. 

For temporary short-term hiding places, there were also the suburbs of 
the major cities. For the slaves who lived in the environs of Cap or Port-au- 
Prince, the populous quarters, the markets located at city gates, and the 
faceless crowds of the ports offered the possibility for moving about rather 
freely among deck hands, carters, slaves on commission, male and female 
vendors, notions salesmen, and sailors, while acting with assurance the role 
of freedman. 

Whether it was in the vicinity of Fort Sainl-Clair, of the port or market 
of Croix des Bossales in Port-au-Prince, in Fossette, in the Bac section or 
the Hopital des Peres, at Crevisses, Champs Elysees, in Camp-Louise behind 
Casernes, in Carcnage, Mornet, Gris-Gris, Picofet, Cap, or its environs, the 
fugitive immersed in the crowds enjoyed anonymity while awaiting occasional 
employment. In this floating population some of the idle lived hand to 
mouth and by pillage. In the winding alleys of this underworld lived the 
mob, passionate gamblers and brawlers, existing by theft. 

In Cap, Little Guinea was such a neighborhood, with its inns and shady 
cafes where bad characters and the dregs of prostitution gather There, shelter 
and work were readily provided to Maroons disposed to participating in 
immoral acts. In June 1786 a decree of the Conseil du Cap indicated this: 

. f . condemning one Toussaint, absconder, Negro belonging to the Widow 
Jupiter to be flogged in nude effigy in all the byways and public squares of 
Cap . . . a group of slaves and free blacks to be hanged in the marketplace 
for various thefts, a group of slaves of both sexes to be present on their 
knees before the gallows at the execution of said blacks, then to be whipped 
and branded with the letters GAL and condemned in perpetuity to the 
King’s chain- 7 for having under false passes occupied a room in Little 
Guinea in the house of one Larose, Free Negro, censures Mr. Baptiste 
Masse with penalty upon repetition, for having rented rooms and closets 
in the house of one Larose, N.L., to several slaves and for being suspected 
of having had knowledge of the mischief committed by these renters. 2 * 

For the same reasons in the preceding month the Conseil Superieur of 
Cap had condemned Joseph Mabiala and Blaise, leaders of a Maroon band, 
and Pierre, one of the members of the band, to be broken alive, ‘The body of 
the latter to be exposed in the place known as La Fossette all the next day, 
Sunday following the execution.” 2 * 

In Saint-Marc there were Maroons who also resorted to pillaging. One 
of their leaders, Benoit, was captured and hanged. 30 The phenomenon was 
not peculiar to Saint-Domingue, Elsewhere, in Jamaica, the outskirts of King¬ 
ston were infested with undisciplined types 

Maroon Hiding Places; Sanctuaries, Asylums 273 

hidden in and around the town in very considerable number, causing great 
damage to their masters and a clear detriment to the inhaibtants* As there 
were people infamous enough to be sympathetic to these slaves, Captain 
Barlet, the city's police inspector* proposed a measure which would remedy 
the evil resulting from marronage: namely to appoint someone with the 
responsibility for registering the name and exact description of every run¬ 
away slave. 31 

Severe exemplary punishments were meted out but neither the British 
police force (since 1764 without success in Saint-Domingue and still at the 
stage of placing advertisements), nor the police of Cap, Port-au-Prince, or 
Saint-Marc ever succeeded in bringing disorder and brigandage in the sub¬ 
urbs to a halt* It is readily understandable that the climate of anarchy 
facilitated the harboring of Maroons, Besides, professional contrabanders fre¬ 
quented these areas, always on the lookout for a Maroon to dupe, to lead 
him by enticing promises to the new chains of brokers and beaters on the 
lookout for idle arms to offer at a price to colonists and freedmen always in 
need of work hands, and ready to close their eyes to the identity of the slave 
to be hired for day's and piecework* 

From the suburbs. Maroons ventured out to the ports* It required but a 
bit of luck for them to accumulate some minute capital in coin or in kind 
sufficient for obtaining a small craft, the dreamed of means for changing 
parishes by debarking on new shores where no one would suspect the fraudu¬ 
lent liberty of the new arrival. It was especially the skilled workers who took 
this chance. They had a trade, sometimes two, making it possible for them to 
earn a living. Others deserted the suburbs to head for other parishes over 
little-traveled roads in like hope of disappearing without a trace* Here and 
there, some had friends, acquaintances, relatives, shipmates, or countrymen* 
Leaving Port-au-Prince they reached Croix des Bouquets, disappearing 
in Plaine du Cul-de-Sac* Those from Saint-Marc fell in with each other 
again around Mtrebalais, Gonaives, or Boucassin, Those from the Cap area 
moved out to Limonade, to Quartier Marin in Caracol or Fort-Dauphin* 
Those from Nippcs sought refuge in the cantons of Grand Anse and vice 
versa* Thus the trails were quite garbled. It is regrettable that the advertise¬ 
ments did not follow the itineraries more closely* Of the recaptured Maroon 
we more often know the place where he is taken than his point of departure* 
However, this latter information is sometimes also provided. It is from 
the cantons which were frequent passages for Maroons in the North, in 
Artibonite, the West, the South, Northwest and Southwest* The borders of 
Etang SaumStre on the way out of Cul-de-Sac, Trou, Ouanaminthe, Ver¬ 
ges, Mirebalais—the frontier route; Dondon, Limbe, Marmelade, which 
border the nearby mountains* Port-Margot, Petite Anse, Bale de Jacquesv, 
Acul-Samedi, Jean Rabel, Arcahaye, Leogane Heights, practically all Grand 
Anse, Morne de FHSpital and Coupe Heights in the Port-au-Prince region 
complete the list of known hiding places where Maroons were retaken, of the 


places of refuge they most frequently adopted to cover their tracks and to 
attempt a new life. 

Generally the mass of fugitives could be divided into three groups: those 
who loitered around the big cities, notably Cap; those who moved step by 
step to reach distant cantons; and those en route to the Spanish area. Other 
groups in the end joined up with organi/xd bands and—when they were 
accepted—shared the life of the Maroons established in the mountain 
heights and the vast stretches of woods, where, according to their needs and 
the available manpower, they cleared new ground for subsistence gardens 
around which to organize a community of free blacks subordinate to a leader 
and subject to rules. 

These Maroons needed, in addition to gardens, replenishments in arms, 
farm tools, clothes for protection against the cold nights, and other utility 
items that had to be sought outside. At times the expected harvests suffered 
bad weather and delay. The group then organized raids against the nearest 
plantation. Always mentioned are the hills of Plymouth in the South, the 
vast uninhabited stretches around Baraderes, which facilitated “perpetual 
marronage of various blacks/’ also Manuel, still celebrated for having shel¬ 
tered a hundred-year rebellion forming, between the two parts of the island, a 
zone practically abandoned to Maroons, as if it were in fact an independent 
state. This zone comprised a mountain chain extending from Fond du Diable 
to Sud dc Mirebalais, to the eastern limits of Jacmel near Mornc de Selle, 
reaching into Spanish territory. Its sustenance was derived from bartering 
with the communities of Neybe and Beatc, and it extended as far as the 
Bahorueo mountains where inaccessible gorges harbored other Maroon 

If Plymouth and Maniel were the inviolate refuge of the best-supplied 
Maroons, these mountains were far from having been the only organized 
centers. During his eighteen years as a Maroon Macanclal was not familiar 
with Plymouth or Maniel. Smaller groups of Maroons existed in woodlands 
bands “in these entrenched camps sealed off by palisades and surrounded by 
ditches twelve to fifteen feet deep, eight to ten wide, armed at the bottom 
with sharp pointed stakes." 8 * Thus many Maroons lived in hiding with the 
same mode of organized life in all parts of the colony. The proof of this is 
that descriptions of the depradations committed by Maroons emanated from 
all sectors: cattle thefts, enticement of blacks into marronage, kidnapping of 
women to relieve the loneliness of the mountains and to provide a range of 
domestic services beginning with the preparation of meals ensured by the 
sacking of plantation warehouses and reserves. 

The line of these raids is underscored in the sales of mountain coffee 
plantations in which it was specified that the plantation “is safe from maroon 
raids, well protected in spite of the remoteness.” It is also known that freed- 
men scattered throughout the heights in the North and in the South were 
often victims of these Maroon incursions, of actual pillaging (sometimes 

Maroon Hiding Places; Sanctuaries, Asylums 275 

armed bands), for there were cases of assassination of mulattocs or free 
blacks who had dared to oppose these hungry, aggressive Maroons. Without 
doubt, it was to these raids that Lucien Peytraud referred when he stated 
that marronage was “an open sore.” 

Some historians, among them Father Gabon, assure us that for their 
part Saint-Domingue was less victimized by marronage and its attendant dam¬ 
age than Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Curasao or the other English, 
Dutch or French possessions in the Windward and Leeward Islands. 

If in Saint-Domingue marronage did not assume a permanently alarming, 
often aggressive character, if instead it was limited to timid isolated demon¬ 
strations, bursts of ill temper and the whims of libertine, dissolute, and un¬ 
disciplined lazy slaves, what explanation could there be for the repressive 
measures which had constantly to be employed for repressing this infraction? 

For example: the constant reinforcement of organizations of repression 
which Saint-Domingue, certainly larger and richer than other colonies, alone 
maintained permanently, the relentless struggle that these special troops had 
to wage against Maroons, sometimes requiring help from volunteers, at other 
times from freedmen, even slaves. Specifically for the security of the colonists, 
legislation was constantly reinforced with innumerable prohibitions against 
gatherings of blacks, dances, moving about without passes, free access to 
neighboring plantations, bearing arms, going out at night, the use of boats, 
talking to slaves without the master’s permission; night searches, and other 

There was a continuing multiplication of exemplary punishments inflicted 
on slaves: hanging, being broken alive on the wheel, having their ears cut 
off or hamstrings cut, being burned alive and having their ashes scattered to 
the winds. * . * 

W'ith the exception of the special circumstances of the Maroon community 
led by Maniel it is difficult to find any value in these kinds of measures if 
indeed marronage presented no real danger to the colony. For over a decade 
Maniel increased his excursions, devastating Saltrou and the surrounding 
areas until at times they were reduced to a mere “five or six inhabitants.” 
After several fruitless military' actions the French were forced to parley for a 
treaty of peace. 

Certainly it is not with short-lived marronage, marronage of the truancy- 
school concept, that the advertisements in every case are concerned. That 
the letters of plantation managers make only passing mention of marronage 
is easily understood; the culpable were astutely silent, little inclined them¬ 
selves to announce the result of privations and abuses of the slave. That 
the administration likewise made little mention of it or did so cryptically, 
although this was not always the case, surely indicates a certain reluctance to 
advertise its incapacity to maintain order. And did freed men proprietors in 
the remote areas, regular victims of Maroon raids, actually ever express their 


alarm? What authority would have echoed their desperate plaints or even 
lent an ear to their lamentations? 

Finally, mention must be made of the refuge fugitive slaves sought 
abroad. Earlier we mentioned flights by sea. Much more numerous were the 
Maroons who headed for the “Spanish 1 * road. 

What were the advantages of asylum in a foreign land which made “the 
Spaniard” so desirable as a privileged refuge for Maroons? First of all there 
was the proximity of a country without a border, except on maps, separating 
it from the French sector, and the natural extension of the same mountains, 
the same rivers under the same sky. Also, there was the regular refusal during 
certain eras to extradite fugitive slaves, a practice which eventuated in pro¬ 
viding protection for the slave guilty of a crime punishable by death; in ad¬ 
dition the treatment given the slaves who were “generally fed the same fare as 
their masters was rather more humane* 33 There was the hope of a better life 
less constrained to harsh labor, labor confined mostly to stockraising when it 
was not a matter of tolerated freedom from the time of arrival; the possibility 
of becoming a keeper of herds abandoned in the wide pastures and of enjoying 
relative freedom with long siestas; the ability to come and go without sur¬ 
veillance and the easy, indolent life of the Spaniard; the possibilities for early 
freedom in a society in which the greatest interpenetration of classes was 
practiced without too many restrictions or racial complexes. 

In brief, the Spanish part of Saint-Dominguc was, in the eyes of the slave, 
the nearest image of the liberty to which he aspired. It should also be under¬ 
stood that blacks were constantly drawn to the east by the propaganda and 
enticing promises of the Spanish colonists and authorities. It remains, how¬ 
ever, to be shown how new slaves scarcely debarked, not yet admitted to 
the ranks of the “vertically baptized,” not yet branded, could so easily in 
their flight have found their way to the Spaniard. These escapes imply com¬ 
plicity rather than any effectiveness of the Spanish propaganda, which of 
course could not yet have meaning for the newly debarked slave incapable 
of expressing himself, ignorant of his own [colonial 1 name, not knowing 
that of his master or plantation. The route to the frontier required several 
stages, guides, and helping hands each time the new slave set out, whether 
from Plains du Nord, or Cul-de-Sac, or Artibonite. Dcbbasch 34 proposed an 
astounding explanation for these flights by newly arrived blacks: “These new 
blacks totally ignorant or almost so who as though by chance reach the 
Spanish port of Saint-Domingue believed all the while they were walking 
back to Africa.” 

After leaving the African const the slaves had spent forty days crossing 
the sea, forty days, often more, of anguish and torture, both mental and 
physical. How, even if “totally ignorant or almost so,” could they have 
erased from memory the image of that frightful nightmare, the recent mem¬ 
ory of the slave ship for forty days tossed on the seas, and then believe that 
by walking straight ahead for two or three days they would again find 
Africa “as if by chance,” without crossing the sea? Whether or not inspired 

Maroon Hiding Places; Sanctuaries, Asylums 277 

by Dutertre, 35 the statement is ludicrous. It will, however, not divert a more 
scrupulous or less whimsical scrutiny of flights by new blacks and the net¬ 
work of complicity they suggest. 

The majority of new blacks arrested and brought back from the Spanish 
sector as well as creoles or creolized Africans were jailed in Cap or Fort 
Dauphin, 315 That at least was the custom at the close of the colonial period 
when, within the framework of the intervening peace between Spain and 
France, sham extraditions of captured fugitives were effected from time to 
time in an attempt to soften the justified complaints of French authorities. 
The Spaniards returned a few slaves, but, according to contemporary wit¬ 
nesses, they held the great majority. The occasional deliveries tended to serve 
as appeasement and to camouflage by such show of goodwill the regular 
practice of facilitating the desertion of slaves from the French area, thus 
securing at low cost a complement of manpower. These lots of captured 
fugitives to be extradited appear in practice to have been gathered together 
in the North to be taken to the nearest jails, the ones at Fort-Dauphin and 
in Cap. Thus we will note Maroons from CuI-de-Sac, Gonaivcs, Fond Bap¬ 
tiste and even He a Vache fleeing to the Spaniards: 

—Martin, age twenty to twenty-two, a Congo belonging to Mr, de Boynes in 
Port-au-Prince, brought back from the Spaniard and now in the Fort- 
Dauphin jail. 

—Saint-Jean, a Congo, left Saint-Marc, was picked up and brought back 
from the Spanish area to be taken to the jail in Cap. 

Thus either at Cap or Fort-Dauphin we find: 

—The Congo, Francois, fugitive from Gonai'ves, Jean-Fran^ois, a Miserable, 
runaway from Port-au-Prince, 

—Jean Baptiste, creole runaway from He a Vache, 

—Jean-Pic rre, a blind creole, accompanied by AngeLique, both fugitives 
from Grande Colline, 

—A Congo, Pierre, age thirty, fugitive from Saint-Marc. 

—A griflone, Jeannette, age twenty-eight, a runaway from Jacquczy; 
Joseph, a creole from Cap. 

—Reine, an Arad a woman of twenty-six, runaway from Cul-de-Sac. The 
creole Joseph, fugitive from Fond Baptiste. 

New Africans brought back from the Spanish area ended up in the same 
jails. Their point of departure as runaways was rarely stated. The great ma¬ 
jority of these new arrivals having just debarked or being in the process of 
creolization, they do not know, we repeat, their new names, their destina¬ 
tion, the language of the country, or their master’s names. Sometimes they 


wore only the ship’s brand, rarely a brand that indicated their owner or the 
place of their flight: 

—A new black, no brand, age about twenty-six, does not know his name 
and his master's, picked up and brought back from the Spaniard. 

—Three new blacks about twenty-five, branded *‘Lc Couturier.” 

—Saint-Marc, brought back from the Spaniard. 

—Four new blacks, Congos, ages twenty to twenty-four, can’t give their 
names nor their master’s, picked up and returned from the Spaniard. 

—Three Congos, branded P.B. (ship’s brand), don’t know their names or 
their master’s, al! three brought back from the Spaniard. 

—Maric-Louisc and Jacques, new Congos, no brand, picked up in the Span¬ 
ish sector. 

—A Fandy from the Congo, unable to tell his name, not branded, brought 
back from the Spaniards. 

Those who set out toward the Spaniards were generally young, including 
perhaps many new arrivals, although there were a greater number of young 
creoles among those extradited. 37 Without doubt it was less compromising 
for the Spaniards to hold on to new Africans in particular, since they were 
more difficult to look for and identify. In any event there was nothing to 
negate the assertion that it was common practice for new blacks in large 
numbers to find shelter among the Spaniards. No one would be satisfied with 
Debbasch's explanation. These flights and the search for asylum by scarcely 
arrived Africans knowing neither their master’s nor their own names, ignorant 
of the language and the geography of the country, could not have been 
undertaken without active assistance from the slave world, especially from 
the Maroons. 

We will have to make up our minds to acknowledge this one logical 
hypothesis supported by so many examples. Besides, in the year-by-year 
analyses of descriptions, the facts confirm this observation, especially when 
one considers the large numbers of bossales retrieved from the Spaniards 
and the announcements of escapes by new Africans “in boats,” not to men¬ 
tion all of the advertisements clearly specifying that these blacks “were 
assisted by other blacks.” 

Whether about specific problems the new arrivals could never alone 
resolve, or about the routes they were incapable of negotiating on their own, 
the indications, when indeed they were not simply and clearly denunciations 
of complicity, are ample, indisputable proof. 


Which Slaves Took Flight 

IN DISCUSSING SLAVES it is generally advisable to distinguish four 

Creoles, or those born in Saint-Domingue. Slaves from Africa called 
bossales when newly arrived and more generally, dandas, an expression ap¬ 
parently not current toward the end of the seventeenth century. New blacks 
were those not yet a year in Saint-Domingue and who having achieved an 
understanding of Creole and French after a year had lost their initial status 
as bossales 38 and were lumped with born creoles. 

It is the same with slaves from the nearby Antilles, Jamaica, Martinique, 
Curacao, whether born in these islands or creolized there. They were no 
longer bossales nor even ‘‘new blacks,” having already acquired the mark 
of the islands, more or less identical with Saint-Domingue. One could not 
depend on a brand for distinguishing whether a slave was newly arrived 
from Africa or born in the colony. As we have previously noted, branding 
was practiced indiscriminately on creole Africans, and on those brought in 
on slave ships. It should be noted however that many new Africans who 
became Maroons had not been branded, or carried only a ship’s brand, or 
wore only the marks of their country of origin. 39 

The clothing worn by captured Maroons was a clue to the condition of 
the individual fugitive, that is, whether he was a field worker, house servant, 
or skilled worker, and further gave some idea of whether his owner was 
poor white or a wealthy proprietor. 

Another clue to differentiating Maroons was the language or languages 
they spoke. This information was strewn at random throughout the descrip¬ 
tions. Africans “speaking good French,” “does not speak French,” “from 
France, speaks the language fluently,” or even “speaks Gascon. . . ."*« 
“Blacks fluent in two languages,” “unable to tell,” “does not know his 
name or that of his master.” 41 . . , Africans “speaking Spanish well,” “speak¬ 
ing English, Dutch, Spanish and scarcely any Creole.” . . . Slaves “speaking 
only their own tongue,” “speaking Spanish and Cura?aoan.” 

From this diversity of specifics it is possible to distinguish: 

The creole African, who spoke Creole and French well or fluently or 
who “speaks slowly and very distinctly for a negro which leads him to claim 
he is free”; the bossale who spoke only his native tongue; the new black 



who already spoke some French* 3 and was well on the way to assimilating 
French and Creole, to become creolized, assimilated to the creoles; and, 
finally, from neighboring countries, the creolized who, by virtue of successive 
sales and shifts in locale, had learned Spanish, English, and Dutch and, some¬ 
times, in addition to these, # ‘Cura?aoian,” which is the Creole of the Dutch 
Antilles, called Papatniento. It goes without saying that creoles or the cre¬ 
olized from Martinique and other French possessions, because of their 
knowledge of Creole, immediately found themselves placed in the ranks of 
the creoles. 

We have found no indications of mulatto Indians speaking Marcorix, 
Lucayo, or any other extant language of the Indian period. This is additional 
proof that the last survivors were already mixed and by way of disappearing 
from the entire Carib region. 

As for African languages, it is difficult to understand how they could 
have been so submerged by Creole as to leave only relatively minute traces 
in the vocabulary, principally in Voodoo rites and songs. Without doubt, 
the phenomenon is due to the fact that the bossale was ridiculed for his 
crude Creole (parler langage).* 1 

However, and it is here that the difficulty arises, the slaves continued to 
converse among themselves in their native languages. When Africans of the 
same nation came together, they freely resorted to their language of origin 
for their traditional palaver. What is more, drivers, often creole blacks in 
contact with slaves of different languages, became familiar with their lan¬ 
guage and on occasion even served as interpreters, evidence of the continued 
use of these languages. According to Saint-Remy, Toussaint-Louvcrture un¬ 
derstood Arada, and as noted by Guy Bonnet, 4 * the mulatto Belisaire, after 
long contact with work gangs of diverse origins in Plaine du Cul-de-Sac, 
learned to speak practically every African language represented in Saint- 

The places where fugitives were captured also provide clues. In general, 
it was the creoles who were captured in the towns. Laborers headed for the 
mountains and plunged into still-forested areas. The skilled workers changed 
hiding places from city to city, parish to parish. There were of course excep¬ 
tions to the rule, which nevertheless do not negate these generalizations. In 
fact, and fortunately so, in order to avoid any possible mistake, the descrip¬ 
tions themselves most often indicated whether the fugitives were creoles or 
new arrivals. It is only when this detail was not provided that we can profit¬ 
ably resort to the indicated dues in order to distinguish among creoles, new 
blacks, and bossales. These observations are indispensable for any detailed 
analysis and statistics deriving from a summary of lists of slaves declared 
Maroons or jail inmates, or for sale as strays. 

These lists end with designations of masters. If it is a plantation owner 
or a colonist practicing a trade or profession it is probable that the hunted 

Which Slaves Took Flight? 281 

fugitive is more likely an unskilled black than a house slave, or a semiskilled 
domestic than an unskilled black. 

Previous chapters devoted to the slave have without doubt sufficiently 
indicated that marronage was practiced by all kinds of Africans: young and 
old, male and female, house slaves and field slaves, skilled as well as factory 
workers; creoles, bossales or new blacks and the creolized; by Congos, Aradas, 
Mozambique*, blacks of every origin, mulattoes, grifTes, Indians, quadroons, 
the well nourished and the hungry, the weak as well as the strong, those with 
cruel masters, those with good ones , * , with no exceptions. Surely new 
Africans, in greater numbers, were more often than creoles denounced in 
descriptions. Without doubt, Congos dominated the lists which, it should be 
remembered, embrace the end of the colonial period. 

Slave ship arrivals and subsequent slave sales were specified by num¬ 
bered cargoes only for a few years at the close of the colonial period. There 
remained the fugitive-slave advertisements or advertisements of recaptured 
slaves, which nevertheless do not enlighten us about the number of origins 
of slaves never caught. To nurse any hope of establishing complete statistics 
on runaways is to be unrealistic. Therefore while deploring the gap in exist¬ 
ing documentation we will hold on to the information provided by the de¬ 
scriptions, namely that new blacks more than creoles were inclined to 

As for the Congos, it is they who would prove to be the most given to 
marronage, whether as new arrivals or already creolized Congos long in 
service in the colony. This negates their unjustified traditional reputation as 
traitors and submissive slaves. We know the origin of this odious label. 
Cagnet and Jacques Tellier, at the head of a group of Plaine du Cap Congos 
hostile to Dessalines, Christophe and other leaders of the native army de¬ 
serted the ranks, and, on the eve of Independence, joined forces with 
Rochambeau. With the memory of this treason still alive, it became current 
practice to associate with treason the name Congo, now become a synonym 
for traitor. 

According to Maroon descriptions, the Congos comprised the most im¬ 
portant Maroon groups. Certainly a half. After them, the Mozambiques of 
the same Bantu group, the Ibos and Aradas, creole Africans; then the Nagos, 
Bambaras, Mondongos, and others. The very evolution of the slave trade, by 
multiplying cargos from such or such origin in a specific period, strongly 
influences the graph of flights by ‘‘nations.” 

The main question still lies unanswered. How establish the margin be¬ 
tween the number of Maroons captured and those never captured? There 
are no data to provide the answer, and it is not possible in any sure way to 
determine, from the number of slaves captured, how many had taken flight. 
It is known that some runaways were captured and taken to jail According 
to Peytraud, these were few in number. It is also quite well known that, 
tired of wandering about the woods, starved and deprived of assistance, some 


Maroons of their own accord returned, upon invitation of the master. On 
the other hand, only a small number of colonists and landowners publicized 
in the press the flight of their slaves, 

Under such conditions, how would wc establish this difference between 
captured Maroons and total Maroons in flight, publicized or not? Perhaps 
we would come close to the facts by adopting a mean of 25 percent as rea¬ 
sonable for captured Maroons, that is, one-quarter taken, three-quarters lost. 
Such a hypothesis—clearly this is but a hypothesis—seems plausible when 
we consider the importance, clear or poorly concealed, of marronage, “its 
horrible disorders,” “its festering wound” on the one hand, and, on the 
other the fact, we repeat, that for diverse and well-known reasons only a 
small number of colonists gave public notice of runaways. 

This very reasonable margin which to us seems close to the facts would 
indicate from one period to another the alarming character of the flights. 
Gabriel Debien and the author in collaboration analyzed five hundred descrip¬ 
tions of Maroons, both captured and at large, just in the region of Cap and 
its suburbs over a ten-month period/ 5 The figure of five hundred acknowl¬ 
edged Maroons permits supposition of some fifteen hundred to two thousand 
fugitive staves for the same period. This is the actual figure that must be 
reconciled from slave inventories in that part of the North and from arrival 
figures, in order to derive some idea of the alarming nature of slave flights. 

According to “L’Etat genera! dcs cultures et des manufactures de la 
Panic Fran^aisc de Saint-Domingue" for the parish in question and the year 
1791, relating specifically to the descriptions examined, the number of blacks 
in service in the sugar mills, on coffee plantations, cotton mills, indigo farms, 
tanneries, cocoa fields, lime kilns, brickyards and pottery is as follows; 








Cap and its dependencies 
Petite Anse and Plainc du Nord 
Acul, Limonade* and Saintc-Suzanne 
Quartier-Morin and Grande-Riviere 
Dondon and Mantidade 
Limbo and Port-Margot 
Plaisancc and Borgnc 

Total 4 * 


The above total is for a population of 455,000 slaves distributed throughout 
the colony. To the 119,531 slaves in the North, including the 21,613, 10,573 
were delivered there with a breakdown as will follow. For comparison we 
will set the actual figure for slave arrivals in Cap against slave figures for 
Cap and its dependencies* We do not have the figures for 1791. but we 
know that for the entire colony importation was 30,835 slaves in 1787 and 
29,506 in 1788. In that same year of 1788, for the single port of Cap, there 
were thirty-seven slave ships unloading: 

Which Slaves Took Flight? 283 





Little boys 


Little girls 




In any case, whether by highlighting the figures for total slave population 
or by taking into account announcements of slave-ship arrivals, we become 
aware that fifteen hundred or two thousand runaways in ten months repre¬ 
sents a considerable percentage. 

As against 10,573 Africans arriving in Cap, even supposing half of them 
were kept in this city, a slave port and distribution center, the figure of two 
thousand Maroons is a very large one. The rate of growth in the cadres 
would be severely handicapped by marronage, for the creole birth rate, 
already reduced by abortions, could not provide compensations. Financial 
loss would come close to four million livres, if wc keep in mind that the 
average price of a slave at that point in colonial history was 2,099 livres,* 7 
not to mention the booty carried of! by Maroons in linen, farm tools, utensils 
and food, and, in addition, the costs of roundups, flight announcements, or 
other formalities, and the loss of livestock, sometimes horses, mules. . . . 

NOTES, pp. 247-283 

1. S.A.A., 6 May 1786. 

2. This word zs colonial parlance dearly used to refer to short-lived flights, which we 
identify with simple snags in the discipline of the work gangs, 

3. On the matter "of the departure of managers for certain isolated plantations or 
farms which then often serve as dens for Slaves in marronage," the Provincial 
Assembly of the North in its session 11 December 1789 made it a requirement “to 
have a White or a Freedman to supervise the Slaves on each plantation or sub¬ 
sistence plot more than one hour distant from the main plantation." 

4. “We suggest that someone who wanted to appropriate to himself these slaves, a 

group of four bakers, by a flattering hope enticed them into running away and is 
now keeping them hidden in town." 5,^4.4,, 12 January 1785. "Wc suspect he is 
plying his trade on some plantation." 7 August 1775, 

5. A*A. t 2 August 1775, 

6, Antoine ran away 8 November 1782 "after having been insolent and mistreating a 

white man on Mr. Charrier's plantation in Haut du Cap," February 1782. 

7, De Pradf, Des Colonies, I, 259, 

8, It was especially easy for peddlers to take flight by virtue of their Incessant moving 
about. In the month of May 1784 there was offered for sale a black woman peddler 
who, it was said, "will not be back from her circuit until the end of June." 

9, S.A,A„ 26 March 1783, 

10, Gaze tie de Soint-Domingue, Wednesday, 20 April 1791, 

11* The typical example of marronage is supplied by advertisements of this type: “Congo 
slave unbranded, age twenty-eight, five feet three inches, bought aboard the ship La 
Midii May 23 last, taken to Lunbe on the twenty-fourth, ran away eight days ago" 


(Avis Divers, 3 April 1765), Or “Seven new Congo slaves, newly branded, run¬ 
aways from Plantation Dufourej at Foncls des N&gres,” 

12, 20 November 1784. 

13, Fleeing Spanish domination Chief Hatuey and some Indians reached Cuba in 

14, S,A.A. t 23 October 1784, 

15, A.A., 17 November 1784. 

16* Similar examples may be found in runaway slave advertisements for other years. 
For example, on 17 May 1769, “Seventeen slaves, the majority creoles, ran away 
from Mme. Beaupoers plantation in Gona'ives." Or in 1773, at Plantation Millot 
in Petite-Anse, twenty slaves, men, women, children and an old man of seventy- 
eight years escape together on the same night.” 

17* Observation by Mr, Debien, 

18. A vis divers and Fetites A fitches Amiricames ; 23 October 1765, Type of special 
pass: * Valid for a slave named Jean who will be peddling in the areas of Saint- 
Marc, Cap and Fort-Dauphin; good for one month, at Port-au-Prince, January 12, 
1767* I say the twelfth of January 1767 and said black supplied with a one-eared 
mule. Signed Mesples, senior," Affiches Americaines, 16 February 1767. 

19. Candale: “shorts without bottoms," from Labaf, II, 134* 

20. Dutertre. 

2L Wild pig was prize game. It provided the grease necessary for cooking. This lard 
was called manleca by the Spaniards and became mantegue in Creole. Mant6gre 
Hill owes its name to the abundance of these wild pigs. It was a hiding place for 
runaway slaves. The South had the most game. To be found in abundance there 
were wood pigeons, water fowl, ducks, guinea fowl, W'ild pigs. In addition, at 
Dalmarie, Roseaux, and especially throughout Grande-Anse, crabs swarmed in the 
ravines (Moreau 111, 1404; I, 207). 

22. Vaissiere, op. cit ,, 233. 

23. Dutertre II, 536. 

24. Labat, I, 43, 

25. Cited by Father Gisler* p. 199, 

26* Vaisstire, p. 234* 

27. Slaves attached to the King’s Chain were put to w r ork on public projects* On 
GonaTve Island there was a prison, agricultural, and crafts complex, where those 
condemned under common law were kept. Prisoners in the jails sometimes worked 
as servants to the military and to high functionaries. Each prison had "a criminal 
room where examinations were carried on by the chief judge who handled the 
transferring of prisoners. ... It was there that under the horrors of torture . . . 
the prisoner bought surcease from excruciating pain sometimes with a vow, too 
often with a lie thereby condemning himself or others to execution" (5aint-M6ry, 
1, 392). 

28. SA.A., 14 June 1786, 

29. S.A.A 6 May 1786. 

30. S.A.A., 1789. 

31. S,A.A. t 1 January 1785* 

32. Mi moire sur les nigres marrons, cited by Vaissiere, 234-235. 

33. Very few' “Spanish" slaves fled to the French sector. However w r e note the names 
of several masters with their locales: Don Juan from S, Vague in 1764, Dasilva, 
Signor Ticho, etc. It should be noted in passing that, before the American War of 
1764 up through 1780, Saint-Domingue journals often used the phrase chez Vespag- 
nol and not d VEspagnoL 

34. Op * cit., 1, 49. 

35. Speaking of new slaves, Father Dutertre declares that “the severity of the work 

Notes 285 

which was foreign to them in their native land discouraged them and led them to 
run away to the woods, hoping thus to find a way hack to their countries, , , 
(II, 535), 

36. in 1765 Maroons held in custody at Fori-Dauphin were transferred to Cap "to 
be sent to the chain gang/' 

37. We note, curiously enough, the extradition of a number of black creoles said to 
be Spanish speaking. Were they a bad lot, or was there among the Spaniards an 
uneasiness about having in their midst blacks who with their know-ledge of the 
language might lead other fugitives astray? The general opinion still holds that 
the Spanish-speaking refugee slave had in fact greater opportunity for employment 
or liberation in the eastern sector. 

38. "They are angered and consider it an insult to be treated like bosiales, that is, new 
arrivals, when they have already been there a year/* (MaJenfant, op. cit. t p. 208.) 
"Isidore a Congo speaks Creole well although in the country only eighteen 
months' 1 (A.A. t 11 September 1771), 

39. Their flights must have occurred so soon after their arrival that the masters had 
not had lime to brand them. 

40. The item "speaks French and Gascon’ 1 is noted in more than ten descriptions. 

41. There are a few' cases of Maroons pretending ignorance of Creole or French, "In 
Jcremic the maroon Georges a Congo although actually crcolized tries to pass for 
a bossalc." Sometimes a Maroon proved very cunning and covered his tracks. 
L£og&ne, 28 March 1791, letter to the editor; 

"Sir, the article on maroons and unclaimed runaway slaves published in the 
colony’s papers is most useful to the residents but the information is often useless 
due to carelessness of prison keepers in giving exact descriptions of blacks. * . , 
Upon entering jail slaves often hide their names and those of their masters. If one 
who says he is lean-Baptiste is otherwise named, if Mr. Tellier is not his master, 
then there remains only information about the nature and defect of a brand 
which is no information at all/’ (Gazette tie Saint-Domingut, Mercredi, 30 March 

42. A new black, Moscarie, a Congo who when called replies "my master." 

43. Perhaps the displacement of African languages was also a result of the increase 
of creoles in the composition of w-ork gangs and their numerical superiority fol¬ 
lowing the decline then the suppression of the regular trade during the last ten 
years of colonization. 

44. Advertisements sometimes described slaves as “speaking several of the Guinea 

45. Journal General de SatnfrDomtngue, 16 October 1790 to 16 August 1791. 

46. See Bryan Edwards, An Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of 
St . Domingo , London 1797, p, 187. 

47. Almanack Ginirat de Saint*Domingue f Mozard, 1. According to Bryan Edwards, 
op. cit rf p, 200, the average appraised value per slave was 2500 livres in 1791. The 
same author gives the figure 2099 pounds, 2 shillings for the year 1788. (op. ciL, 

p. 208,) 



THE IMPORTANCE of marronage is best demonstrated in a chronological 
account. Therefore the last part of this work will be dedicated to highlight¬ 
ing, in this fashion, the gravity of these desertions. In spite of the armed 
revolts, the successive rebellions and the constant increase in the number of 
Maroons, the colonists, the administration, and the chroniclers of the period, 
regularly manifest in their correspondence 1 a tendency to hide the extent of 
the losses. Here and there, however, certain suggestive statements filter 
through. Scant attention is given the resurgences of marronage, as if this 
were not an important concern or as if at long last people had become ac¬ 
customed to permanent unrest as an integral part of the trials, misery, and 
danger of colonial life. 

There is evident proof that the evil continued to grow. In fact, the pro¬ 
scriptions and prohibitions aimed at blocking the road to marronage, the 
organization and permanent maintenance of militias for the pursuit of the 
fugitives, and the extraordinary abundance, in every region of the country, 
of retreats either bearing the names of Maroon leaders or indicating the 
Maroon presence arc increased: Pilon dcs Tcnebres, Muiatre-dompt£s, Cretc- 
iVCongo, Pic des Platons, Cavcrnes de Cavaillon, de Trou. de Marmelade 
and others. There was also the century-long resistance of Bahoruco and the 
necessity for negotiating with the rebels, as one powerful people with an¬ 
other, a treaty of peace; the continuous pursuit of extradition of fugitives 
from the Spanish sector; the accounts of the raids and devastation committed 
by the Maroons; the imposing lists of Maroons revealed by the colonists 
themselves; and, finally, the great armed revolts which surpassed in ampli¬ 
tude all the sporadic movements noted in the neighboring Antilles. . . . 

No matter how heavy this toll, there was, nevertheless, an abiding re¬ 
luctance to admit, even to recognize, the importance of marronage. Moreau 
de Safnt-Mcry’s compilation of the law's and constitutions of Saint-Domingue 
is filled to the overflow with judgments against slaves who in the name of 
liberty had become Maroons or rebels. The accusations were cloaked under 
the rubric “civil crimes,” that is, crimes in common law." Clearly this be¬ 
trayed a kind of chauvinism that would never permit the thought that the 
organizational genius of the French administration could ever be found 
wanting. It was freely admitted that rebellions occurred elsewhere, but cer¬ 
tainly not in the French colonies. There was agreement in certifying and de¬ 
scribing publicly the fact that marronage could rage in the neighboring 
islands under English, or Dutch, or Danish domination, but be spared the 
French colonials, nis matins, and especially the “lords of Saint-Domingue,” 
This persistent complex paralleled by an anglophobia rooted in colonial 
mentality and coiled in the subconscious, this ferment of the traditional 
hatred of perfidious Albion, the hereditary enemy—did they continue as 
characteristics of certain French historians? None of them devoted more 
attention to the evolution of marronage than Father Gabon. His true thoughts 
on this subject were equivocated by avowals of the importance of marronage 



coupled with reservations and often—as if this were his main objective— 
unfavorable comparisons with what was going on elsewhere. In fact, it is 
Father Gabon who, over many long pages, best demonstrated the increase 
in slave flights, the scope and the multiplication of desertions and revolts. 
Frequently he wrote in this vein; 

Thus we see that in Saint-Do mi ague marronage far from diminishing con¬ 
stantly caused the Administration 3 the greatest trouble [and] t . . as for the 
maroons, they never cease to be a danger.* 

Moreover, it was also Father Gabon who would attempt to show that the 
English and the Dutch Antilles were always in a greater state of unrest than 
the possessions of the French Crown, and who would denounce 4< the harsh¬ 
ness of the English laws.” As if the French colonists treated their slaves any 
better and were less barbarous than the rest! 

Here again are some very suggestive lines from Father Gabon: 

In that time (around 1734, the year in which Saint-Domingue experienced 
the ravages of the Maroon chieftain Polvdor) there was a marked resurgence 
of marronage in the Antilles. ... In neither Martinique nor Guadeloupe 
were there armed uprisings; poisoning . . , and arson were the weapons. But 
Surinam and Jamaica suffered particularly at the hands of the maroons. It is 
dear that Saint-Domingue did not experience so much trouble, although 
the bills and the proximity of the Spaniards made it easy for the maroons 
to run off, to regroup and to enjoy impunity after their misdeeds, . . , We 
should here note that the English colonies suffered a great deal from slave 
revolts. It is safe to conclude that if there has been no general uprising in 
Saint-Domingue, it is because the motivating cause has been lacking; com¬ 
mon opinion in the French colonics associates this cause with the harshness 
of the English laws. 

Generally speaking, would it be, however bold the statement, a mistake to 
detect at times in historians of the French colonization traces of this same 
complex of “common opinion in the French colonies,” all the while of 
course guarding against extending this fault to the work of so honest a 
thinker as Pere Gabon? For our part, we cannot see any other explanation 
for these reservations about the importance of marronage, the silence with 
which they wished to surround it, and the secret purpose of a position so 
strange and so far from the truth. 

The facts are there, dear and indisputable. They could not nevertheless 
remain ignored by the very people who daily were affected by them and who 
furthermore over a period of more than two centuries complained about the 
scarcity of manpower due to “mortalities and desertions.” Moreover, it is this 
ostrichlike behavior which will be observable—the very height of irony— 
even while in 1791 the northern provinces were being ravaged by the general 

A Chronology of Marronage 291 

slave revolt during which, in the smoking ruins* the cadavers of white colo¬ 
nials numbered in the thousands. This is not to mention the unprecedented 
loss of two hundred sugar mills as well as twelve hundred coffee plantations 
destroyed at the same time and the more than fifteen thousand slaves who 
deserted forever the w r ork gangs in the North after calm had been restored. 
In the face of this disaster, the General Assembly convened on the morning 
of 15 September and expressed the certainty that this could not have been 
an uprising of the blacks, that most of these had been carried off and forced 
to follow a number of brigands and were now of a mind to return to their 
labors. The minutes read: 

Whereas, among the number of negroes who appeared to be in open 
revolt there may have been many who were led to follow' the brigands and 
who moved with them through fear, 

Whereas, those negroes whom force and fear aligned with the brigands 
now without doubt are but awaiting a favorable opportunity to escape from 
them so as to return to their work, and 

Whereas, from the moment when our armed forces deploy to combat 
and exterminate the insurgents, these same negroes will hasten to lay down 
arms and to seek pardon. * . * 

Here, in much the same menacing, almost triumphal tone, is Blanchelande’s 
proclamation aimed at the rebels: 

In this war which you force upon me T nothing is more cruel than the neces¬ 
sity to destroy you in great number or to deprive you of the means of 
sustenance. [The subsistence gardens w r ere then being destroyed.] I am 
willing to pardon you the ills you have visited upon this Province: keep 
your word, give yourselves up, lay down your arms, return to your planta¬ 
tions, I promise you a general amnesty; my word as a soldier is inviolable. 
Here are my terms: work gang by work gang you will proceed to an area 
five hundred steps from the camps at Petite-Anse and Haut-du-Cap there to 
turn in your arms, and each work gang after having thus laid down every 
type of weapon will withdraw to the plantation to which it belongs, unless 
for its safety and preservation it should be considered more appropriate to 
give it, temporarily, some other asylum, for as you know there are a number 
of plantations where you will find no housing to shelter you. 5 

This is by no means a matter of naivete. It is, rather, a voluntary dissimula¬ 
tion of a situation, the dramatic character of which collided violently with 
colonial prejudices. The authorities will prefer to deny the evidence and to 
attempt to give credence to the hope that the rebels would return to the fold, 
to those very masters of whom they had just strangled a thousand or more. 
They will prefer to imagine cohorts of repentant slaves* prodigal sons coming 
to offer their necks to the pillory of slavery in order to help forge new chains. 


After all, how unthinkable it was that there might be desertions, and revolts, 
and Maroons in Saint-Domingue! 

Never did the complex in question offer more positive proof of an un¬ 
conscious pride, and nowhere is it better expressed than in the wording of 
these “whereases,” certainly a strange but constant attitude, one difficult to 
deny when it is caught as it were flagrante delicto. 

In truth, as a footnote to this entirely verbal assurance, appeals for help 
had been sent, as we know, to every quarter; arms and troop reinforcements 
had been received; and torture, executions, and hunting down of Maroons 
and rebels had been going on night and day, while the number of rebels mul¬ 
tiplied dangerously. In 1791, the Maroons numbered fifteen thousand; the 
following year there were in the province of the North alone some twenty-five 
thousand Maroons under arms. What might the total have been in 1793 if 
we were to base an estimate on the enormous figure of the fourteen thousand 
slave women who in the parish of Cap alone, according to official reports, 
took advantage of the amnesty. What followed is well known. It is by way 
of delayed action in any case that Polverel, in his proclamation of 31 October 
1793, will recognize reality: 

Two years of war against the insurgent Africans have convinced the pro¬ 
prietors that henceforth it will be impossible to maintain slavery. Their 
ateliers were deserted, their homes or plantations burned or devastated, and 
France drained of men and money; and, while her armies were being 
annihilated in Saint-Domingue, the armies of the Africans each day were 
enlarged by newly deserted slaves. * * * 

Who, then, in Saint-Domingue could fail to be aware of marronage? Who 
did not experience losses due to it? Desertions had begun with the arrival of 
the first African slaves brought to Hispaniola, It is these Africans whose 
first revolts were described in 1503, who infused the Indian with the spirit 
of revolt, and who indicated the way of the Maroon to Cacique Henry, for 
fourteen years (1519-33) in hiding at Bahomco,* accompanied by a number 
of black Maroons/ In the meantime, in 1522, Africans had sacked and 
pillaged a sugar milt belonging to Don Diego Columbus, son of the admiral, 
then had extended their ravages to the plantation of Michel dc Castro, massa¬ 
cring, killing, and pillaging all along the route to Azua and threatening to 
sack that town. Tracked down by superior forces, they look the route to the 
Ocoa Mountains, rejoining other black Maroons who had made their strong¬ 
hold there. 

Since then, revolts occurred without interruption, over some three cen¬ 
turies, and, from Ovando to Barbe de Marbois, the alarm never ceased its 
clangor, resulting always in bloody repressions. How then deny the impor¬ 
tance of marronage, something which in the words of Peytraud, constituted 
“an ever-present wound” in the corpus of Saint-Domingue, sparing not even 
the good masters or the reputedly docile work gangs? 

A Chronology of Marronage 293 

With respect to the linkage between marronage and the revolts, two im¬ 
portant questions still divide certain historians interested in Saint-Domingue. 
To wit: did the Maroons feed the great slave revolt? Does history permit 
advancement of the claim that marronage and the battles for liberty were gen¬ 
erally united in one and the same cause well before 1791? And, if so, by 
what formal evidence? According to the hair-splitting analysts, the colonists, 
at least in correspondence examined to date, never affirmed this liaison in 
any expressed manner, and the known witnesses in Saint-Domingue were 
mute on the subject of a reputed linkage between marronage and the revolts, 
whether in 1791 or before the general slave uprising. 

Hence, it would be almost impossible to demonstrate it, if the silence of 
the colonists on some or other aspect of colonial life were irrefutable proof 
that such or such a reaction had not taken place in the slave world. 

Such reasoning is at base faulty. 

Actually, there are those who, ignoring undeniable facts and events, 
would generally prefer that the colonists themselves had provided precise 
and detailed written testimony on the behind-the-scenes operations of the 
struggle secretly organized against them. This, as if the blacks were under 
the obligation to offer their masters confidences about the conspiracies under 
preparation and to denounce on every occasion the clandestine organizations 
that were laboring under the greatest secrecy, drawing upon such resources 
as guile and the supreme cleverness of the oppressed and the weakest. 

Specifically, as regards the revolt in the North, the fact is that all Saint- 
Domingue was expecting a general slave uprising. From one month to an¬ 
other, after 1789, the malaise continued to mount. Innumerable letters from 
the colonists describe this, in anguish. And, up to the very evening before 
the great night of August 1791, rumors had been abroad, thanks to certain 
slaves impatient for the opening of hostilities. 

The truth is that the secret of decisions made at Bois-CaTman had been 
so welt kept that the colonials, according to Malenfant, ‘‘had no inkling of 
their misfortune until it was signaled by the light of the flames.” These con¬ 
siderations seem to show that, insofar as the slave rebellions were concerned, 
the colonists must have been very little, very poorly, and very tardily in¬ 
formed, or not informed at a!L 8 Whatever the case, who would refuse, in 
spite of everything, to admit that, except for sometimes fragile and debata¬ 
ble traditions, only the colonists and historians who were witnesses of the 
colonial period can serve as sources of Saint-Domingue history? Besides, it is 
exclusively through the accounts of colonists and the written testimony of the 
historians of Saint-Domingue that the certainty is derived that marronage and 
the struggles for liberty were generally one and the same cause and, of course, 
that the revolt of the slaves in 1791 was closely linked with marronage. 

At the time of the general uprising in the parishes of the North, what are 
the elements, if not the Maroons, that came into action, that held talks with 
drivers and certain groups of slaves, and assured liaison between the work 


forces to be set in motion? Is proof necessary, written proof such as left us 
by Saint-Doniingue witnesses themselves? From the very beginning were not 
the leaders of the 1791 revolt seasoned Maroons and skilled leaders of 
Maroon bands, as were Jean-Frangois, Biassou, Jcannot, Macaya, Sans- 
Souci? And did not such as Boukman and Toussaint Breda enter into rela¬ 
tions with them, immediately subordinating themselves to their direction? 
How did the slaves upon deserting the work gangs and freeing themselves of 
their chains then organize themselves? 

As is known, and always by the revelations of contemporary witnesses. 
Maroons joined with slaves in revolt impelled, by force and by threats, a 
number of work gangs to revolt and the battles were waged in the same 
manner as the raids against Maroons. For example, Malenfant, an old colonist 
whom we can believe to have been well informed, testified to this at length, 
as did numerous other historians of the colonial epoch. 

Furthermore, and the information is particularly conclusive, the slaves 
in revolt, now become new Maroons, did not remain isolated but moved to 
swell the existing bands of Congos, Nagos, or other “nations/* recreating in 
Saint-Dominguc the African tradition of warrior bands often grouped ac¬ 
cording to tribal origin. 

The very choice of leaders itself serves as a cogent implication of this 
liaison. There is established proof that at the time of the revolt Jeannot was 
no longer a domestic slave on the plantation of Mr, Bullet, By description 
he is a “guide” in the Haut-du-Cap mountains. As for Jcan-Frangois, former 
coachman to Mr. Papillon, and Georges Biassou, erstwhile refiner in Mr, 
Biassou's sugar mill, they were—to repeat—not only known to the Maroons, 
but had acquired enough authority among them as to be selected as leaders 
by Toussaint Breda and Boukman Dutty, as well as by all the slaves in 
revolt The first of these taken as prisoners declared that their “supreme 
chief was Jcan-Frangois, whose principal lieutenants were Biassou and 
Jeannot,” 9 

Jean-Frangois knew how to read and write. Already, according to aU 
appearances, he was in continued contact with the priests Bienvenu and 
Delahaye, respectively of Marmeladc and Dondon, and perhaps with certain 
Spanish authorities, surely in any case, with Despres, mulatto gunsmith at 
Fort-Dauphin whom he made his aide-de-camp* Without doubt it was these 
kinds of contacts coupled with his activity that made him merit the supreme 
command, with not the slightest demurral by Toussaint Breda or Boukman. 

Another proof of this liaison between marronage and the general revolt 
of the parishes in the North is the importance of the armament the slaves 
were able to bring to bear against the colonial forces from the time of the 
earliest battles. Without the collaboration of the Maroons, who alone were 
then capable of liaisons indispensable to the providing of arms? How could 
the slaves, just barely emerged from work gangs in revolt, have been able so 
soon to place in the hands of the brigadier de Rouvrai or Commandant 

A Chronology of Marronage 295 

Touzard not only picks, torches, and machetes, but also guns and cannons, 
with which their fortified camps were filled and which were acquired "from 
foreign vessels” or "across the Spanish frontier”? Too often, the tendency is 
to forget that from the beginning the slaves were solidly provided with arms. 
Had they not been so, why would the colonists have appealed so quickly 
and so loudly for urgent help from neighboring countries? 

No one can honestly deny that the linkage between marronage and the 
events of 1791 is a historic fact. At any rate, given the abundance of ac¬ 
counts and other written testimony, the authenticity of this claim is less 
frequently debated. Instead, certain critics reproach the Haitian school of 
historians for having from the very first associated marronage with the strug¬ 
gle for liberty. The relevant response—using always the words of the colo¬ 
nists and of the Saint-Domingue historians—presents no real difficulty. 

Putting aside for a moment the slaves who practiced marronage with no 
other idea than the search for personal liberty or for improved well-being, it 
would appear that throughout the colonial era there were, in marronage, 
active groups preaching and organizing rebellion against chains and slavery* 
How often in the history of marronage have we not observed those attempts 
which had as objectives the general massacre of the whites, mass poisonings, 
and the burning and sacking of plantations? 

It is not we who do the telling. The information derives solely from 
reports conveyed in letters of the colonists or from written accounts of the 
very historians of the colonization. It is only through these sources that from 
the first rebellion at Bahoruco to the general uprising of the slaves, we have 
seen as though in parade the Maroons of Liberty and their bold, courageous 
leaders, torch in hand: in 1679, Padrejean "who determined to strangle 
every white in the Northwest”; in 1691, Janot Marin and Georges Dollot, 
known as Pierrot, who ^harbored the project to massacre all the whites of 
the Port-de-Paix quarter, including women and nursing babes”; in 1719, the 
black Michele at Bahoruco; in 1724, One-Leg Colas; in 1730, Plymouth; in 
1734, Poly dor; in 1747, Pom pee, all of whom had the same aspiration for 
full freedom for all. In 1757, Medor, who declares that the mass poisoning 
which he organized had for its objective “the gaining of liberty,” In 1758, 
there was Macandaf, who "had agents all over the colony and was planning 
the elimination of all the whites.” Around 1775, there were Noel, Tele- 
maque Canga, Isaac, and Pyrrhus Candidc in the North, Jacques at Cul-de- 
Sac. In 1785, Santiague, Philippe, Kebinda at Bahoruco. In 1786, Jerome, 
called Poteau, who "preaches Independence” in Marmclade, and organizes 
meetings of the blacks. In 1787, at Trou, Yaya, and finally—the most glori¬ 
ous of them all—Boukman, who enters history with the decisive revolt of 

The historical account of marronage will reveal an accumulation of 
these irrefutable evidences of the still-contested link between marronage and 
the struggle for liberty. Meanwhile, let us consider anew and from a closer 


vantage point the spontaneous type of marronage, not the marronage of the 
organized bands whose defense of their liberty proved a daily concern to 
the colonists, but, rather, the more habitual type, demonstrated by slaves 
entering into marronage. The most numerous of these Maroons were un¬ 
questionably the new arrivals, those most recently debarked from the slave 
ships. Such is the information provided both by Father Dutertre for the 
early days of the colonization and by the descriptions in the Saint-Domingue 
press at the end of the colonial period. 

Who were they who, throughout the long years of colonization, provided 
these newly arrived Africans with such efficient support? Certainly, it was 
neither the white colonists nor the enfranchised proprietors who, during the 
span of three centuries, systematically organized the desertions from their 
own work gangs. Neither can we believe that it was the creole slaves or the 
creoiized Africans of the plantations—supposing they had had the means— 
who continuously assumed the risk of saving the new arrivals, instead of 
saving themselves. What then? What alternative choice remains? 

Either the new arrivals, in spite of their ignorance of the language and of 
the geography of Saint-Domingue, were miraculously able to escape to some 
secure hiding place, to mislead and evade the hunting parties of the military 
and, strictly on their own* to find the way to Maroon groups or to asylum 
in the Spanish sector—certainly no one could pay the slightest attention to a 
hypothesis that smacks so much of fiction—or else the new Africans, during 
their flights, received help in significant numbers from the only possible 
source available, the Maroons, 10 

Our own position rests firmly on this latter premise, whether or not 
colonial accounts specifically indicate its validity, and whether or not his¬ 
torians interested in Saint-Domingue have paid any attention to it. For 
therein lies a certainty affixed to historic truth and to the most precise, most 
evident proof of the permanent link between marronage and the slaves 1 long 
struggle to break their chains. What additional proof, and of what kind, is 
there to add to the history taught and written by the colonists themselves? 
Not a single line of this testimony could have been invented by the historians 
o! the Haitian school, none of whom had been born when Father Dutertre, 
Charlevoix, Moreau de Saint-Mery, Descourtilz, or Malenfant were writing 
the history of Saint-Domingue. 

This historical account of marronage will group a number of original 
texts to which we will add commentary only when absolutely necessary. 
These are eyewitness accounts by Father Charlevoix, or by Moreau de Saint* 
Mery, Saint-Domingue chroniclers, or pieces taken from the National Ar¬ 
chives in Paris. We will add to them certain abstracts from Pierre de 
Vaissi&re, Father Gabon and Father Gisler, as well as the most characteristic 
information supplied by Thomas Madtou, Beaubrun Ardouin, or Pauleus 
Sannon of the Haitian school. Finally, we will include certain unedited selec¬ 
tions likely to shed better light on the persons of certain Maroon leaders, 

A Chronology of Marronage 297 

drawing upon an analysis made of Maroon lists supplied by the Saint- 
Domingue press and without doubt representing the latest, the richest, most 
important documentation on marronagc. Thus we will have an overall view 
of the resistance to slavery, of Maroon leaders and bands, of fugitive cus¬ 
toms, strongholds, frequent raids, and of legislation and roadblocks con¬ 
tinuously employed and reinforced in order to combat desertions. The view 
will include the actions of the clergy, poisoning, and the parallel evolution of 
this resistance movement, all of which make it possible for us to embrace, to 
better come to grips with the slave’s long struggle to free himself of his 
chains. Thus, we will come to the great armed revolts, the natural result of 
marronagc, without being able to uncover the linkage and the fusion of a 
movement which was but a continuation, hence a reinforcement, of mar- 
ronage, without being able to disassociate marronagc and rebellion, 11 As if 
the general revolt could have taken place without the Maroons! As if the 
battle for independence, like the battle for liberty, could have been possible 
without the support of Maroon bands for so long tempered in warfare, and 
accustomed to desertion and to the winds of liberty! 

If desertions spread rapidly, gaining progressively in every parish and 
shaking the colonial regime it was, accept it or not, marronage continuing in 
a form not unknown to other times, 12 Maroons and rebels together used the 
same methods of devastating and sacking plantations, burning buildings, 
making night raids and daytime withdrawals to well-protected, safe hiding 
places. When, on 15 February 1792, the leaders of the freedmen delivered 
their historic address before the Civil Commissioners, threatening them with 
withdrawing into the mountains, and waging from there an incessant war¬ 
fare, were they not thinking then of Maroon strongholds, of Maroon 

Citizens of color will withdraw to the mountains. In these barbarous 
climates, the woods and the rocks naturally provide safe ramparts against 
men’s injustice and the lairs of the most ferocious beasts otter the unfor¬ 
tunate victims of persecution more agreeable retreats than the pestiferous 
surroundings of cities where despotism and humanity reign sovereign, 

Andr£ Rigaud added: 

We will defy the tyrants and the enemies of equality and rather than allow 
your liberty to be endangered, we will go and live with you [the Africans] 
in those hills which have always offered shelter to persecuted men. And 
there we will know how to make ourselves feared. 

It is the same language and the same appeal to the tactic of the Maroons 
that Dcscourtilz reports having heard from the very mouth of Dessalines 
haranguing his troops: 


Nous va chicaner yo, nous va boul£ toute r^colte layo, puis nous va cacher 
lan monie 13 a nous,* 

Linkage and fusion? With what and by whom could these have been 
accomplished if not with and by marronage? And at what moment in Saint' 
Dominguc did they suddenly stop mentioning marronage, Maroons, rebels, 
fugitives, and revolts, in order to establish a break in the tradition of resist¬ 
ance to slavery and the indomitable cal! to liberty? Did in fact the word 
“Maroon” ever disappear from the colonial vocabulary, and when indeed 
did they stop talking about marronage? 

Polverel and Sonthonax, as well as Bonaparte in his secret orders to 
Leclcrc at the time of the 1803 expedition, still referred to marronage. The 
best proof of the survival of this term is supplied by the colonists themselves, 
those who had sought refuge in the United States after the events in Saint- 
Dominguc, As a matter of fact, we have extended our inquiry to the Ameri¬ 
can journals of that era. As follows; 

Journal des Revolutions de la Partie Frangaise de Saint-Domingue, sec¬ 
ond part, Philadelphia, October 1793 to January 1794, and L'Etoile Amiri- 
caine, Journal Historique, Politique , Critique et Moral , published by Tan¬ 
guy, in Philadelphia, beginning March 1794. Well! The advertisements on 
marronage are in the same style as those in the Saint-Domingue press then 
in its decline and at the point of disappearing. Of course, we are concerned 
here with ads from colonists who were proprietors in Saint-Domingue and 
now emigrated to the United States: Vietoire Gerard, who identified himself 
as a Frenchman from Saint-Domingue, Mme, de Chambreu, Mme, F, Lavaus, 
Widow Dcsmarais, Payen Boisneuf, M, Caradcux, all formerly inhabitants of 
Saint-Domingue, By the same token we make note only of those slaves who 
have gone Maroon and who are declared to be male or female creole blacks 
from Saint-Domingue, The word “Maroon” in 1793 and 1794 was still fre¬ 
quently used, much more so than the chaste term “fugitive,” having so much 
the same meaning that here its use was a matter of playing with words. 

Here then, are a few examples from which one may, by the way, note 
that there seems to be a sensible amelioration in dress, though it must not 
be forgotten that, on the one hand, these are domestic slaves and thus en¬ 
joying some little privilege and, on the other hand, that the climate differed 
from that of Saint-Domingue, requiring a frock coat or jackets against the 

—Alexander, Negro Indian, straight hair, wearing vest and pants of coarse 
dark gray cloth under a coat and on his head a white kerchief. 

•“Well cut you to pieces, well leave you only a scorched earth. Then well withdraw 
to our hills and hide there." 

A Chronology of Marronage 299 

—Alexis, a Congo black, eighteen years old, dressed in a gray shirt and two 
vests, one puce colored, the other gray. Pants also gray, 

—Caesar, wearing a vest and a long-tailed coat of blue material. Speaks only 
a few words of English. 

—Sophie, mulattresS; long face and curly hair, often dressed in white or as an 

—Theodore, creole from Saint-Domingue, wearing a long frock coat of 
white cashmere, striped pants, and high button shoes. 

—Pi err e-Louis, Negro belonging to Payen Eoisneuf of Saint-Domingue, 
thirty-five years old, and wearing a little gold ring in one of his ears. Plays 
the violin. 

—Joseph Sanon, dressed in a green jacket, a motley-colored shirt, and a 
gray pair of pants sailor fashion. 

—A young Negro, sixteen or seventeen years old, usually wears jacket and 
pants of brown woolen fabric and a green coat and shoes with round 
buckles. . . . 

Clearly, even though they had been transplanted, the Saint-Domingue 
blacks did not lose their lust for liberty. This, above all, is the meaning of 
the marronage occurring in Philadelphia and described by the local news¬ 
papers, The diversity of these attempts demonstrates, after all, the same 
fierce unconditional fighting spirit against slavery. As such, it is a landmark 
in the revolutionary ideal which, following the example of Hatuey in Cuba, 
would inspire lean Kina in Martinique. In fact, we will again come across 
this Maroon leader of Saint-Domingue fomenting an 1800 revolt of free 
Africans in the neighboring island. Jean Nika was then—a new direction to a 
life of perils and adventures—colonel in the British army. He had just mar¬ 
ried a young black girl of fourteen, Adelaide, daughter of Antoine Quimard, 
a free black and master mason at Fort-Royal. 14 As for the celebrated Jean- 
Francois, he retired to Cuba where he provoked uprisings in the Orient 
region and in the immediate environs of Havana. 13 

Once again, around the natural pride of the Africans of Saint-Domingue, 
people incapable of accepting slavery, there was being outlined, and even 
more deeply so, that call to liberty transformed now into tradition, becoming 
an apostolate—an apostolate to be brilliantly affirmed by Toussaint Louver- 
ture and, in the wake of the genius of Breda, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and 
Alexandre Pction. In the process they would demonstrate to America the 
meaning of liberty and fraternal mutual aid, the true cornerstones of Pan- 

That suddenly these extraordinary men should have surged to the fore 
could not have been a matter of mere chance. 


Behind them lay a historical explanation. They were links in a long line¬ 
age, knotted to the sufferings of slaver}' and colonial injustices and matured 
in the tradition of liberty and of the rehabilitation of a race. . . . The most 
significant lesson provided by the step by step, year by year study of the 
history of marronage is the discovery of the roots and the growth of the 
indivisible tree of liberty. It is this very tree that is our genealogical tree, 
marked with the profiles of the Maroons and with the anguished visage of 
the Saint-Domingue slave, ancestor of the Haitian community. 

Here follows a chronological account of marronage that for the first time 
groups the main elements of the known or still unexplored data. 

1499-52—First African Slaves . . . First Maroons 

The history of marronage begins with the Discovery and will remain the 
permanent reaction of the slave against exploitation by the Spanish, then 
French masters; it will continue to be an insurmountable cause of insecurity 
and problems. In 1499 the first African slaves, shipped from Spain, began 
to arrive in Hispaniola* 10 A royal decree dated 29 March 1503 confirms this 
and makes mention of the runaways from among these blacks as described 
by Ovando: 

With respect to the Negro slaves which you say we should not send because 
those there have fled we will order that it be done as you request, 17 

It is to these African rebels that Governor Ovando attributes the recru- 
descncc of the spirit of revolt manifested by the Indians to such a degree 
that Christopher Columbus, the virtuous admiral, recommended in his in¬ 
structions of 9 April 1494 to Pedro Margarit that he “cut the noses and the 
cars of those who run away . . . “entre otras cosas que se corten a los Indios 
que furten, las nances y las orejas.” 19 

The fact is that Ovando at all times knowing full well the facts of the 
situation made clear both his uneasiness about the worsening conditions and 
his opposition to the continued shipment of blacks to the island: 

He also rid the colony of several persons of bad character [writes Father 
Charlevoix] and he opposed as much as he could the sending of Negroes to 
the Indies, having observed that the earliest of those who came to the 
Spanish isle ran off among the natives to whom they taught everything bad, 
of which they were capable and which made them much more difficult to 
control. 10 

Father Charlevoix refers again and again to the spirit of rebellion of the 
Africans imported to Hispaniola who would continue to be accused of con¬ 
taminating the timid, docile natives of the island. He writes; 

These island people are clearly diminishing in number, moreover to get any 

A Chronology of Marronage 301 

of them one needs to be a friend of the Admiral or else have credit at Court 
The example provided by Nicuesa gave several people the idea of going to 
the lesser Antilles to carry off some Caribs* One of the inhabitants armed a 
caravelle with this in mind and made the run down to Guadaloupe, but 
he found the barbarians to be on the alert and without having taken a 
single slave he was forced to withdraw, having suffered losses. Others were 
somewhat more fortunate but they by no means retrieved their expenses and 
as the Indians began to die off it became necessary to resort to the blacks of 
Africa without whom the best established Colonies in the New World would 
be, for the most part, nothing of consequence. Since the days of the Great 
Commander they had begun to introduce a few blacks in the Indies, but 
they were barely tolerated and there was, in fact, an edict of His Catholic 
Majesty against this novelty which Ovando had always opposed* This gov¬ 
ernor was fearful that these people, apparently intractable and proud, might 
revolt if their numbers increased and might entice the natives into revolting 
with them; but soon there was a change of sentiment. Necessity required 
they be used, and in the process it became clear that they were not really 
understod. Actually, besides the fact that one Negro does as much work as 
six Indians, be quickly accommodates himself to slavery, for which he 
seems to be born; he does not easily become upset, requires very little to 
live on, and in spite of a barely adequate diet, continues nevertheless to be 
robust and strong. Quite naturally, he has some small bit of pride, but all 
that is needed to cow him is to show him still more of this and to let him 
feel by the dint of the lash that he has masters. What is to be marveled at 
is that punishment, although at times carried to the bounds of cruelty, does 
not cause him to lose his stoutness and that ordinarily he harbors fairly 
little resentment because of it * 0 

Las Casas was the most enthusiastic in recommending to the Crown 
the sending of Africans to Hispaniola in order to relieve the misfortune of 
the poor Indians. Fiercely he pleaded the cause of the Indians, invoking 
with horror 

the captivity of those who are born free, the practice of mutilating with 
the lash these Innocents whose only crime against us is their inability to sus¬ 
tain the labors we heap upon them, our act of inundating their land under a 
deluge of blood, of stripping them of their very necessities and of scandaliz¬ 
ing them by the most shameful excesses * 21 

It was cynically implied that the crime would not be the same once it 
was no longer a question of Indians but, instead, of Africans. 

The color question, just as the whip, malnourishmenf, branding- and 
torture, was entering-—already!—the colonization scene, and the same ex¬ 
ploitation that was established at that time would be carried on for three 
centuries with the same methods, the same barbarity: 

It was suggested to Her Majesty that if she wished to save such valuable 


cotonics it was absolutely necessary to send them a great number of ne¬ 
groes. They had made up their minds to replace the Indians, who were 
entirely lacking in Saint-Dommgue, with Negroes: but those new Slaves 
were poor Miners and since that time the mines have remained closed. In 
recompense, the Negroes were very good for the Manufacture of Sugar 21 
and one can imagine what this Merchandise produced in those times be¬ 
cause wc arc commonly assured that the magnificent palaces of Madrid, 
and of Toledo which were the work of Charles V were built entirely from 
the income just from the entry rights for Sugar from the Spanish Isle. 
However, it can well be believed that the Blacks were not in these early 
days treated too kindly by people accustomed to regarding the Indians as 
animals devoid of reason, for other than the fact that in features and color 
the latter were much closer to the Europeans than the former, the slavery 
in which the indigenous people were held was based uniquely on the right 
of might, while in contrast the Negroes, having been bought and sold by 
their own compatriots, it seemed that wc needed to have fewer scruples 
about making them feel the full brunt of servitude. 3 * 

From 1517, an ordinance of the Most Christian King authorized the transfer 
of four thousand Africans to the four Greater Antilles. 35 It was a Sir Flamand 
who obtained this license which he sold, for twenty-three thousand ducats, to 
the Genovese, who, in turn, raised “to extreme the price of their Negroes/* 
So speculation on the slave traffic to America was beginning to draft the 
rough sketch which from then on was being written on what the colonization 
was to be. 3 ® 

In summary, the Indian was considered incapable of acquitting the hard 
labor to which he was not accustomed. When he was almost completely ex¬ 
terminated, they resorted in compassion to the evidence that “his color brings 
him much closer to the Europeans,” that these indigenous people of the 
island were in any case a free people and that it was a crime to enslave 
these “children of God.** Since no matter what the cost it was necessary to 
insure the prosperity of the colonies, a vain attempt was made to abduct as 
slaves Caribs from the Lesser Antilles. These raids being difficult and the 
few recruits thus obtained being revealed as fragile and unsuited to the 
mines as well as to agriculture, they thought to import Africans for domesti¬ 
cation in all the provinces, a considerable commerce in which Spain was 
already engaged. There were both advantages and disadvantages in the use 
of these African slaves. From the beginning, Ovando took a stand against 
such an option because of the native pride of the blacks and the spirit of 
revolt with which the first Africans to the isle infused the Indians, But the 
colonists would entertain no alternative. The belief was that the whip and 
torture would succeed with these African rebels, with the advantage that, 
once they were thus broken in, there would be obtained from them a greater 
output by six to one in comparison with the Indian, and that the Africans 
were by nature robust and hardworking and capable of standing up even 
under a regime of undernourishment. Even morality would be free from 

A Chronology of Marronagc 303 

jeopardy since these blacks were barbarous, born to be slaves and to be 
sold abroad by their own brothers! 

Every favorable element, including the economic factor and even reli¬ 
gious scruples, was seized for organizing the exploitation of the Africans in 
Hispaniola. Africans were then imported to the island* They were treated as 
beasts* Marronagc was born* Ovando describes its existence ten years after 
the discovery and only four years after the arrival of the first African slaves* 
In 1522, the first great revolt of African slaves, in a sugar mill belonging to 
Don Diego Columbus, is described, and from that time, marronagc spread 

What is certain is that their patience, although they have more of this than 
any other people on Earth was soon tried to the very limit* They then put 
together a plan and even conceived the hope of regaining their liberty. The 
revolt began with those who were in service to the Admiral. D. Diego had a 
Sugar Mill near the Capital where he had a hundred slaves working, most 
of them blacks* The twenty-seventh of December of the year 1522, some 
twenty of these latter joined with an equal number from another sugar mill 
belonging to the Licenciatc Lebron and having found means to procure arms 
fell upon some Spaniards and* taking no chances, killed them and took the 
road to the town of Azua with the idea of surprising the town and, after hav¬ 
ing pillaged it, making a juncture with Cacique Henry. The Admiral, who 
was the first to be warned of their march, immediately with a handful of men 
followed on their heels after having given orders that he should be followed by 
a body of regular troops or local militia. On the second day he reached the 
banks of the Nizao River, and resolved there to await his reinforcements. He 
learned that the rebels had entered the house of one Michael de Castro and 
wreaked havoc there, killing a Castillian, carrying off a Negro and a dozen 
Indians, that from there they had moved within a league of Occoa where 
they had camped, with the intention of pillaging at daybreak a sugar mill 
that Zuaza had nearby; that they were resolved to kill all the Christians 
there and to reinforce their troops with the 120 Blacks there and with these 
reinforcements to go and seize the town of Azua. Michael de Castro was 
with the little band of the Admiral; on hearing what had happened at his 
residence he with two others repaired there quickly without informing his 
General and he found things there to be as reported. A fourth Spaniard 
having joined him at the spot* he sent to tell D. Diego that he was going 
to follow up the Blacks with the idea of harassing them so that they would 
not be able to undertake any action before arrival of the troops and that he 
was requesting him to send help. The Admiral immediately dispatched eight 
horsemen and some footsoldiers riding croup; and Castro, who had had 
sufficient time to learn about the weakness of the Blacks believing that he 
could defeat them with the help of these reinforcements prepared to attack 
them. On their side, the Africans seeing a handful of Spaniards coming at 
them drew themselves up in fairly good order and sustained the first charge 
in good style; but they were so buffeted on the second charge they had not 
the courage to await a third. Castro suffered an arm pierced by a stick 


burned at one end, which in no way deterred him from looking for his 
Blacks and his dozen Indians, who at the sound of his voice came out of 
hiding and joined him. The Admiral arrived about midday with all his men 
and had the fugitives pursued, few of whom escaped and as they were 
hanged from the nearest tree as soon as they were caught, the whole road 
was soon lined with their bodies. This spectacle so intimidated the Blacks, 
that they have not since dared to revolt against the Spaniards of this island. st 

If, from the beginning of the earliest days, the dimensions of the coloniza¬ 
tion, its motivations, objectives, and basic rules arc seen to be sketched in 
sharp outline, at the same time a like sketch of niarronage is drawn. Blacks 
are seen escaping from the first sugar mills, bearing arms or "sticks burned 
at the end,” hiding themselves in the woods and secure hiding places whence 
they sally forth on raids, coopting and carrying of! other slaves; "they are 
pursued by the militia and regular troops, hanged From trees along the road’ 1 
when they are captured, with the idea that such exemplary punishment will 
intimidate the work gangs. Thus are indicated the respective positions of the 
colonials and the slaves in the long Maroon battles about to begin and to 
continue uninterrupted for three centuries. 

First Rebellion at Bahomco; Enriquillo Known as Cacique Henry 
Holds Out for Fourteen Fears— 1519-1533 

Spain consolidated her conquest over the dead bodies of Indians deci¬ 
mated en masse by harsh labor conditions which corresponded neither with 
their diet, based on manioc flour, nor with their very poor physical resistance. 
Added to this were the ravages of a smallpox epidemic which carried off a 
great number of those who had not succumbed to hunger or fatigue, or to 
the cruel treatment at the hands of the subjects of the Spanish Crown, ad¬ 
venturers from Seville, Valencia, and Madrid. Ovando had had cities and 
towns built everywhere, from Cape Tiburon to the port of Jaquimo (Jacmel), 
from Puerto-Plata to Vera-Paz, Puerto Rea, Santa-Maria and Yaguana 
(Cul-de-Sac, Port-au-Prince and Leogane).- 3 Hispaniola exported to Spain 
gold, valuable lumber and sugar, extracted by merciless exploitation of the 
last surviving Indians and of the African slaves whose importation increased 
at a rate that, in spite of everything, was quite inadequate for the need for 
strong arms. 

In 1519, the Indian population, which numbered a million when Colum¬ 
bus’s caravels arrived, had already been 90 percent decimated. These are 
dreadful figures that betray the barbarity and the surprising rapidity of this 
doubtless unparalleled genocide. There had been promulgated, on 27 De¬ 
cember 1512, some thirty laws which were to become a model for the Code 
Noir, issued in 1685 by the French Crown, for the disciplining of slaves. 
These constituted an Indian Code designed to regulate in the name of Chris¬ 
tianity, alas!, the enslavement of the natives. To wit: perpetual slavery, trans- 

A Chronology of Manors age 305 

planting of populations, grouping of Indian huts by fours, the requirement to 
build these huts and to cultivate a house garden, masters to provide a few 
tubers, potatoes, yams, manioc, and corn, and a dozen hens and a rooster 
for every fifty Indians, and separation of the slaves by breaking family or 
tribal links. 

The code provided that on Sundays and holy days masters were to add 
to the daily ration of cassava a “little pound of meat in substitution for fish 
or sardines/ 1 In truth, holy day or not, the Indian, constrained to forced 
labor, lived “on herbs and roots/’ Nor did women in advanced pregnancy 
escape the daily forced labor. 

Multiple suicides sometimes “by groups of one hundred” are described. 
Many saved themselves by finding shelter in the forest and the mountains 
in order to escape this unbearable misery that the first blacks imported from 
Africa were beginning to share with them. These latter were more robust 
and a great deal less docile. 

It was in this era that Enriquillo, called Cacique Henry, surged to the 
fore. A native of Cacique Boheehio’s kingdom of Xaragua, and son of the 
beauty Anacoana, he was bom in Bahoruco and spent his earliest days 
there. Baptized with the Spanish name Enrique, whence Enriquillo, he was 
taken into a convent of the Franciscan monks after the massacre of Alcan¬ 
tara in 1503, 20 He spoke Spanish well, and was tall and well built. According 
to Oviedo and Las Casas, he was “sober in eating and drinking/* aloof, con¬ 
fiding in no one, a man who spoke little and slept even less. He became the 
slave of a colonist in San Juan de La Maguana, Francisco de Valenzuela, and 
began his servitude as a keeper of the corral. At the death of his master he 
passed, by right of succession, to the service of the son, Andre de Valen¬ 
zuela. Las Casas depicts this new master as being a cruel young man of 
dissolute morals, and filled with arrogance. One evening he attempted to 
violate Mencia, an Indian who had become the wife of Enriquillo within 
the Church of the Holy Mother, At the end of his patience, the slave made 
the long journey to lay his complaint before the Royal Audience of Saint- 
Domingue but without success. Having exhausted all recourse to justice, he 
then decided to withdraw to the mountains of Bahoruco with his people and 
a number of trained, armed slaves. There he again assumed his authority as 
cacique, rejoining Guarocuya, a Nytaino and a relative of the unfortunate 
Queen Anacaona, and who, since 1503, had gone into hiding there. His re¬ 
bellion was to last fourteen years. It would end only after long, humiliating 
bargaining sought by the Spaniards who were unnerved by the increasing 
threat of a Bahoruco state and particularly after failing to contain the in¬ 
cessant Maroon incursions which extended as far north as Caracal. 

Enriquillo died in 1535 at the age of about thirty-five, 30 leaving behind 
the glorious memory of his heroic struggle to free his brothers and sisters. 
Saint-Mery, in his evocation of Cacique Henry's rebellion, has left us this 
precious description of the peace talks which provided the epilogue: 


So desirous of bringing to an end a war which compromised the tranquility 
of the entire colony, the Emperor Charles V directed Francois de Barrio 
Nuovo, whom he had appointed governor of Castilla de Oro, to appease 
Cacique Henry and to deliver him a Royal letter. After arranging his plans 
with Admiral of the Island Don Luis Colombo, Christopher’s grandson, and 
with the large number of people brought to Saint-Domingue for that pur¬ 
pose, Nuovo proceeded by caravel to Aquin and from there traveled over 
the mountains until he could make contact with Cacique Henry, who then 
agreed to make peace. Nuovo then returned to Jacqmcl where his caravel 
awaited him. The details historians have provided on the great care with 
which the Cacique hid his place of retreat when compared with the fact 
that, debarked at Aqutn, Barrio Nuovo seeks out the Cacique, approaches a 
lake, meets him and with him rc-embarks for Jacmcl, confirm on the one 
hand the Cacique’s stay at Etang-Sale, for this reason called Henriquille or 
Little Henry, and on the other hand lends credence to the idea that the 
canton of Anscs a Pitre still to the present time contains evidence of precau¬ 
tions employed by the Cacique to avoid falling into the power of his ene¬ 
mies. Actually, at Anse-a-Boeuf there is a semicircular retrenchment about 
four and a half feet deep, tied in at each end to a mountain and lined with 
two rows of little adjoining beams serving no doubt as support for the en¬ 
trenchment. The surrounding caves are filled with human bones. Now Anse- 
a-Boeuf is connected with Etang-Sale by a gorge which widens at a point 
called Fond Trelenguet and which runs to the Saint-lean de la Croix des 
Bouquets district to make the connection by which Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is 
reached through Fond Parisicn. It is a bare twenty-five years ago that this 
connection described by several hunters was at last verified. , , 

Emile Nau, one of our historians, has already devoted an interesting ac¬ 
count covering the Bahoruco Rebellion, the feats of arms, the perils menac¬ 
ing the colony, the parleying, then the rejoicing occasioned by the peace 
treaty, and the mandate to recognize and proclaim the freedom of the In¬ 
dians. He has also breathed life into the rather fascinating image of the 
Cacique Hatuey who, with many of his subjects and rebels, gained Cuban 
shores by canoe after the Xaragua massacre and the sack of Yaguana 

How scrupulously and with what tacit accord have Haitian historians, 
with few exceptions, neglected to claim the glory of Hatuey or of Cacique 
Henry! It is as if they had decided to leave a few crumbs to others for illumi¬ 
nating a history clearly not as rich and less heroic than their own. Hatuey 
and Henry have become Dominican and Cuban heroes respectively. And, in 
their recall of the past of this island called Ayti in spite of the separation 
from our Eastern provinces, only grudgingly have our historians evoked the 
memory of this epic or even of the Indians who preceded us on this land 
under the same sky. A curious disdain ... a mysterious rejection of solidarity 
attributable no doubt to our aggressive pride in a certainly more legitimate 

A Chronology of Marronage 307 

African kinship. We nevertheless can reject neither history, nor geography, 
nor, blended with ebony and copper, those roucGU-tmtcd* roots. * . * 


In this year a slave. Pad re jean, is described as having been for some 
years in the service of a Spaniard. He had kilted his master and sought 
refuge on Tortuga whence he passed over to Saint-Domingue and 

cleared some land in the sector called Massacre now known as Saint-Louis, 
opposite Tortuga's western shore. Since a perverse nature does not readily 
right itself and since one evil deed leads easily to another, Padrejcan cor* 
mpted some of our slaves with whom he planned to strangle all the French 
in the area and then withdraw to the Spaniards whose pardon he expected to 
win by virtue of this second perfidy. 

In those days there were rather few Blacks in the colony, almost all of 
whom had been kidnapped from the Spaniards. A number of them wanted 
to return to their previous masters; for this reason they readily joined Padre- 
jean in his conspiracy. On the first day he recruited twenty-five and having 
armed them with everything at hand he led them through the countryside 
as far as Port-Margot, pillaging and massacring on all sides. He then set up 
on Tararc, a very high mountain between the Saintc-Anne and Saint-Louis 
sections, where he constructed with trees a sort of retrenchment. From this 
point he ravaged all the neighboring plantations, enticing or taking Blacks 
by force and killing whatever French they could surprise or catch in some 
remote spot. 

Mr dc Pouanccy, who was at Port-de-Paix had great difficulty in reduc¬ 
ing this rabble. They occupied an almost inaccessible terrain, were strongly 
positioned and were doubtlessly prepared to defend themselves to the very 
last. It was repugnant to him to expose fine men to death at the hands of 
vile Slaves, all of whose blood would not sufficiently avenge the death of a 
single Frenchman and it was doubtful if all the troops which he was then 
to direct against them would suffice to rout them; also he noticed that, when 
he mentioned sending them on the attack, not one wanted to accept the 
risks of an expedition in which neither honor nor profit could be expected. 

However, the situation worsened and each day was marked either by the 
desertion of several Slaves or the death of a number of colonists. Finally, a 
band of twenty Buccaneers chanced to pass by Pori-de-Paix. The Governor 
sent for them, explained his unenviable situation and told them they would 
be rendering him a true service if they would attempt to deliver him from 
this handful of Slaves who were ravaging the entire Coast, 

The Buccaneers accepted the commission with pleasure and immediately 
carried it out. They approached Tararc Mountain and climbed it with a 
dispatch that frightened the Blacks, forced the stronghold and killed seven 
of these wretches, among them Padrejcan, The rest fled when they saw them- 

*A red vegetable dye used on face and body by the indigenous people of Ayti. 


selves leaderless; the Buccaneers unsuccessfully pursued them and they 
reached Spanish soil where they were well received.* 2 

I6S1—The King Is Distressed by Stave Desertions 

The Africans, noted Cesar dc Rochefort, "are usually proud and arro¬ 
gant. . , . They run away and escape into the mountains. They are then 
called maroon blacks.” 33 

In 1681, there were in Saint-Domingue 1063 male Africans, 314 boys, 
210 mulattoes, 725 black women as against 1421 colonists and 1565 in¬ 
dentured persons, 31 "Nothing,” declared the King, "is more necessary for 
the safety of the settlers and the prevention of slave revolts than strict ob¬ 
servation of the regulations against allowing said blacks to move about 
without passes from their masters.” 

1654 — A Recommendation to Strangle Maroons 

An islander recommends: 

Those who go maroon for more than twelve days ought to be hanged and 
strangled, their owners being reimbursed. If several Blacks are caught have 
them draw lots and hang only one with the others looking on, 

1655 — The Code Noir and Marronage 

A Mr, dc Cussy notes in a letter that "the blacks are formidable local 

The King’s edict touching on the policing of the French islands of Amer¬ 
ica henceforth known as the Code Noir appears in March 1685, It pre¬ 
scribed the following measures for the submission of the blacks and for the 
flight against morronage: 

—Observance of any religion other than the Roman Catholic Apostolic is 
forbid. Slaves are forbidden to carry offensive weapons, including large 
sticks, upon penalty of the whip and confiscation of such arms to the profit 
of whomever shall seize them. Slaves belonging to different Masters are 
likewise forbidden to assemble, by night or day under pretext of weddings 
or otherwise, whether at one of their master’s or elsewhere, and still less on 
the highways or in isolated areas, upon penalty of the whip and fleur-de-tys , 
and in isolated areas upon penalty of corporal punishment never less than 
the whip and the fleur-de-lys, and in case of frequent offenses and other 
aggravating circumstances may be punished with death, 

—Qualified thefts including thefts of stallions, mares, mules, bulls and cows 
by slaves or freedmen shall be punishable by corporal punishment, including 
death if the case so merits. 

A Chronology of M anon age 309 

—A slave who has been a fugitive for a month from the date he has been 
officially reported shall have his ears cut off and be shoulder branded with a 
fleur-de-lys; and should he repeat for another month from the date of de¬ 
nunciation shall have his hamstring cut and be branded with a fleur-de-lys 
on the other shoulder; for the third offense he shall be punished by death* 

—Freedmen who shelter fugitive slaves in their homes shall be required to 
pay their Masters a fine of three hundred pounds of sugar for each such day 
of detention per slave* . * * 

—Such is our pleasure, and to the end that this will be consistent and per¬ 
manent. * * * Louis, by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre. 

1691—A New Plot; New Executions of Maroons 

There was widespread rumor of a great armed preparation at Porto- 
Bello to chase the French out of Saint-Domingue. It seemed quite apparent 
that the English had spread the rumor to intimidate the French and prevent 
them from undertaking anything elsewhere; nevertheless, Mr, Deslandes 
thought it best to take all precautions, after which, having returned home, 
he had hardly been there a half-hour when a horseman rode up in great 
haste to warn him of a plot by two hundred Blacks to massacre all their 
masters and seize the plantations* Upon certain evidence, two Blacks in the 
conspiracy had been seized and had named the leaders. They were brought 
to Mr, Deslandes, who had them put to the question to divulge their accom¬ 
plices, and they named several who were likewise interrogated* Arrangements 
were made for the trial of the guilty ones, and to that end the Major con¬ 
vened an assembly of Officers of the Militia and of Justice, over which he 
presided. Two days later two of the leaders of the plot were broken live; 
three others had a leg cut ofT the next day, and two others were also con¬ 
demned to being broken live, but they were in flight.” 

1691—Uprising at Port-de-Paix 

Janot Marin and Georges Dollot, called Pierrot, were burned alive for 
having harbored a plan to “massacre all the whites in the Port-de-Paix 
quarter including women and children at the breast.”” 

1694—The Jamaica Maroons Want to Come to Saint-Domingue 

In the hills of Jamaica there arc seven thousand fugitive slaves who 
“want to come to Saint-Domingue,” 

1697—Gathering of Slaves in Quartier-Morin 

In May, a gathering of three hundred slaves is detected in the Quartier- 
Morin of Petitc-Anse, 


1700 — Measures for Punishing Maroons 

Gallifct’s ordinance of 16 August inflicting severe punishment on Ma¬ 
roons including cutting of the hamstrings. 

1701 — The Resistance Continues 

The negroes destroy themselves, without hesitation hanging themselves and 
cutting their throats, notes a memoir 

1704 — Uprising in Cap 

Letter to Mr de Charitte, 25 July 1704: 3? 

The blacks of Cap are engaged in a plot to strangle every white in this 
quarter at night. 

1705 — Severe Punishment for Maroons 

The Intendant Began proposes to castrate slaves captured after a third 
flight.*® An ordinance threatens with severe punishment freedmen harboring 
Maroons. On 16 March 1705, the Conseil dc Leogane prohibits slaves to 
carry arms and to assemble. 30 

1706 — Maroon Crimes 

A regulation of the Conseil Supericur of Leogane denounces the 

* , . some of whom gather in the woods and live there exempt from the 
service of their masters, with no other leader than he whom they elected; 
others under cover of the canefields by day lie in wait by night on the high¬ 
ways to rob passers-by, and move from plantation to plantation to carry off 
whatever food or animals they can find and hiding in the house of their 
comrades who usually are participants in their thieving knowing well the 
situation on the plantations and advising said fugitives so that they can take 
measures to carry off their thefts undetected. 

/ 7 07—Cons tab i dory Instituted 

In the North the constabulary is organized for pursuing fugitive slaves. 

1712—Marronage Disturbs the King 

In an ordinance of 30 December 1712 the King reacts against the cruel 
treatment which impels slaves to run away from such inhumanity. 

1714—An Attempt to Extradite Maroons 

A cedula of the King of Spain 40 orders the return of runaway slaves to 
the French sector. 

A Chronology of Marronage 311 

1715—Help Against the Maroons Solicited from Spain 

Blenac assigns Colonel Dubois, commandant at Cubde-Sac, to arrange 
the extradition of Maroons and to request the help of the Spanish authorities 
in a joint roundup of Maroons on the frontiers* 41 

1717—Slaves Forbidden to Carry Knives and Arms 

From what has been reported to us the slaves use a straight, sharp knife 
vulgarly called the Flemish knife; and in defiance of the ordinances mer¬ 
chants favor them and the masters tolerate it; and as this abuse is very 
prejudicial and could lead to dire consequences * * * wc most expressly pro¬ 
hibit and forbid any slave, under whatever pretext, to make use of any 
knife, straight or Flemish, upon penalty of wearing an iron collar for four 
hours and of the lash if repeated; we enjoin the owners of said slaves to 
divest them within a week , . , of all Flemish knives and other offensive 
and defensive arms with which they may be armed upon penalty of a fine 
of ten pounds; under penalty of a fine of one hundred pounds merchants 
are forbidden to sell or credit any of the said knives or forbidden arms; we 
command every inhabitant and provost marshal to regularly make the pre¬ 
scribed visits to the houses of the slaves and relieve them of all offensive 
and defensive arms , . . excepting however arms given by the masters to the 
drivers. , * 

1719—Michel Is Captured 

A new expedition against Bahoruco sets out from CuI-de-Sac and cap¬ 
tures Michel, the Maroon chieftain, the soul of the resistance in the moun¬ 
tains, 43 

1720 — Slave Meetings in Maribaroux 

As a result of meetings held by slaves in Maribaroux to name their lead¬ 
ers the ordinance of 11 January' 1720 reviews Code Noir provisions against 
slave gatherings. In this year alone runaway slaves total a thousand. 44 Ma¬ 
roon bands increase in Fond du Bourg. 4 * 

1721 — Intensification oj the Fight Against Marronage 

By an ordinance of 27 March 1721, strengthening of the constabulary 
tor hunting down Maroons. Creation of a special campaign whose officers 
were “authorized to constitute themselves a provost court in the field for 
judging arrested slaves and meting out punishment on the spot.” At the same 
time a guard corps was placed in the Massacre passage to deny the slaves 
all communication with the East, 48 

1722 — -The Problem of Extraditing Maroons Continues 

The King of Spain issues another ccdula confirming the one of 1714. 


1723 — The Ocoa Affair 

At the moment of extradition, 128 Maroons are rescued by the people 
of Ocoa and found "near Saint-Domingue"—the village of Saint-Laurent des 
Mines, named after the African nation to which they belong. 41 

1724 — Colas Legs-Cut-OQ 
Father Charlevoix reports that 

One must not always rely on slaves being faithful, * . * Blacks in recalci- 
trant groups should be immediately dispersed by stick blows and bull pizzles 
(rigoises); if one delay’s, then later decides to fight them, they will defend 
themselves well. As soon as they perceive that death is inevitable, they don't 
care how it comes, and the slightest success makes them almost invincible. 4 * 
There are so many new plantations. The number of slaves brought in 
each year, although very large, does not meet the demand. Many of the 
new arrivals die, others flee. In the early months of 1724 Maroon depre¬ 
dations disturbed the peace in the North. Over some four or five yean 
there were complaints that the required tracking down [of Maroons] should 
have been effected. Chastcnoye then undertook to dislodge the runaways 
from their hills. But the freedmen refused to march against those they con¬ 
sidered allies. It took an ordinance from the Governor of Cap and the 
threat of severe penalties to get them to do so. The leader was captured on 
Mantcgre Hill below the town of Tanneric between Grande-Riviere and 
Limonade. It was Colas Jambes Coupees [Colas Legs-Cut-OfF]: he was exe¬ 
cuted at Boss de Lance. 40 Mantcgre Hill, with its rather steep slopes, some¬ 
times served as a refuge for the Maroons. Colas, surnamed Jambes Coupees, 
Mr. Doze’s slave who was executed at Bois dc Lance in June, 1724, made it 
all the more famous over some four or five years because of the ravages by 
his band* 54 

1726—Horrible Afflictions Which Few Colonists Escaped 
A 1726 document declares that Maroons 

arc causing terrible disorders in the Colonies as are negro poisoners whose 
crime is very common and the effects of which are experienced by almost 
every resident. 51 

1728—Bahomco Continues to Give Trouble 

Around Bahomco the roundups arc continued. One operation succeeds 
in the capture of forty-six Maroons who are taken to Cap and condemned to 

1730—Plymouth Kilted 

In 1730 the Grand-Anse quarter, which had only five plantations, was rav- 

A Chro nology o t M arro n a ge 313 

aged by Nippes Maroons. A resident of the quarter was charged with con* 
ducting the hunt. He overtook the band on the Anse du Clere heights, 
killed twenty-three and took many prisoners; among those killed was the 
leader, Plymouth, whose name has been given to a section of the country 
(Pestel and Jeremie). 6 * 

This canton, Plymouth* shared its southern border with the Caimites. 
The first French residents of Grandc-Ansc who came there because of its 
immense supply of wild pig meat and wild beef named it Fond-du-Bourg. 
When in 1720 an attempt was made to reestablish Grande-Anse Parish, its 
large area and the nature of its mountains had already attracted runaway 
slaves who at various times formed bands which the government felt had to 
be broken up. At a later period the leader of one of these bands was a 
Jamaica black purchased by a resident of Cayes. Notorious for his raids 
and for the skill with which he evaded all pursuit, he finally provoked an 
all-out expedition against him. Some mulattoes from Plaine des Cayes 
caught up with and killed him after a defense that made his defeat even 
more memorable; so much so, that the place where he fell was given his 
name. Thus, Fond-du-Bourg became Ply mouths 3 Generally speaking, Ply¬ 
mouth is made up of four mountain chains one of which ends up at Macaya 
in the West. Thus it forms a part of the range that marks the two sides oppo¬ 
site the colony's southern sector extending from Macaya to Hoite Mountain. 
These mountains then terminated at Cap Tiburon, 5 * 

1733 — Again Bahoruco and the Constabulary 

Thirty-three Maroons were captured there. The new increases in fugi¬ 
tives require continual hunts. The Ordinance of 21 January 1733 reestab¬ 
lished the constabulary. It was the period when the Siamese sickness* raged 
and fear spread throughout the colony* Under the jurisdiction of each court 
the constabulary comprised a provost master, and two lieutenants; Petit- 
Goave had five officers ( exempts ) and fifty-two archers; Cap’s had three 
officers, thirty-nine archers. 

All the archers had to be free colored men—the following year slaves hop¬ 
ing thus to gain freedom were admitted to the corps. Very early abuses 
were committed even to the point of sidetracking it from its proper function. 
It was now necessary to forbid army and militia officers to retain constabu¬ 
lary archers under their orders and service, 65 

1734 — Poly dor* s Death 

The names Piton [PcakJ des N£gres, Piton des Flambeaux, Piton des 
Tencbrcs, and Crete a Congo all bring to mind the periods when runaways 
settled in these heights which were almost inaccessible and not simply for 
want of roads. We still remember Pofydor and his band, his killings and 
pillaging and especially how difficult it was to catch him. 50 The conforma¬ 
tion of these mountains and those of the neighboring parishes, their steep 
peaks, the rivers and ravines subdivided into numerous branches and some- 

* Yellow fever* 


how multiplying themselves in their winding ways, the cliffs and steeps and 
the nearness of the Spanish sector when in need of another retreat; every¬ 
thing serves to make these places the favorite shelters of the runaway slaves 
who have the option of a slothful life disturbed with difficulty or, at the risk 
of paying with their lives for their cumulative crimes, a plan for laying waste 
the various areas vulnerable to their incursions. It was due to a decision of 
this latter type that the dependency of Trou had to suffer long vexations 
caused by Polydor at the head of his band of armed blacks, who were finally 
destroyed by the concerted effort of the people of Trou and its environs. The 
widespread fear occasioned by Polydor’s atrocities was so great that his de¬ 
struction was considered a service rendered the entire colony; Laurent, the 
slave called Cezar, w p ho collaborated with his master, Mr, Nan tel, in corner¬ 
ing the scoundrel in the savannah which since bears his name, where he was 
shot (rather than surrender himself) on 28 June 1734, obtained from the 
administrators the freedom they had promised the slave who W'ould capture 
Polydor, dead or alive. From the colonial treasury, Mr. Nante! was awarded 
a meager indemnity covering, no doubt, partial expenses, for fifteen hundred 
pounds could not pay for the service he had performed, nor provide con¬ 
solation for having been crippled in so doing. 37 

During the same period the Danish colonics called for help against 
Maroon depredations and, in 1734, a general insurrection broke out in 
Jamaica, where the Maroons built strongholds in the Blue Mountains. 

1737 — Versailles Stitt Disturbed 

A letter from the minister to Governor de Larnagc enjoined him to 
make sure that masters treated their slaves humanely and provided them 
the necessary food and clothing, advising that this was the surest means for 
preventing their seditions and revolts. 68 

1738 — The Battle Against Poisoning 

A decree was published against the practice of poisoning. 

1740 — Maroons Invade Mirebalats 

The constabulary moved in pursuit of Maroons who had invaded the 
town of Mirebalais. They killed seven, captured fourteen, all naked in the 
woods; twenty-three escaped. 

1741 — Institution of Chain Gang 

To further intimidate slaves, the chain gang, with the fleur-de-lys cheek 
brand, was instituted on 14 March 1741. 

Slaves were to be employed for limited periods or for life on the Jollifica¬ 
tions or other labors undertaken upon royal command. Chain-gang punish- 

A Chronology of M a nonage 315 

ment consisted of keeping several of the condemned constantly attached 
to the same chain and thus putting them to work; generally, the mutual in¬ 
fluence of the slaves in the gang was disastrous* They all rivaled each other 
in laziness, insolence and vice. 50 

1742 — Arise d Pitres Attacked 

The Bahoruco Maroons again appear at Ansc S Pitres. 

1743 — Confirmation of Capital Punishment for Maroons 
A new royal declaration of 1 February 1743 

punishes with death Maroons caught with swords or firearms or even blades 
other than pocket knives without spring releases or locking action; any theft 
of sword or firearm by a slave shall be considered a qualified theft, as well 
as thefts of pirogues, boats, sailboats and other sea vessels. 

The constabulary regulations of 1743 set the pay for the capture of 
Maroons according to canton and governed their status until reclaimed by 
their owners. 

The administrators made the modification that a captured slave was to be 
sold as a stray after one month, subject to his master's reclaiming him in 
one year. Clearly, marronage instead of diminishing continuously caused 
the administration extreme difficulties. 60 

The price on the head of a Maroon in refuge among the Spaniards rose 
to twenty gourdes. 

1744 — Extradition of Maroons 

New agreements on extradition of Maroons: travel and food expenses 
paid for at points of delivery. 

1746—Rebellion and Poison 

Royal Declaration of 30 December 1746: 

ARTICLE X: Upon penalty of physical punishment even death if the case 
so requires, slaves male and female are forbid to concoct any remedies in 
pow p der or whatever form and to undertake the cure of any malady with the 
exception of snakebite. And further, that slaves wtia under pretext of pre¬ 
paring snakebite remedies shall have concocted or distributed such means as 
are not applicable to these cases and can only be serviceable for curing other 
ills shall be condemned to punishment as prescribed in this article. . * . 

Mr. de Lamage declares that of the 150 slaves lost by him since he 
arrived in the colony in 1737 more than 100 died of poison 61 


1747 — Pompey* s Capture 

East of Cavaillon there is a big hill called Monte Bleu, celebrated for hav¬ 
ing been the asylum for the negro Pompey whose pillaging and crimes for 
so long desolated this area. The hill has a number of caves, some rather 
spacious in which fetishes and other evidence of frequent use by natives are 
found. It was in one of these caves that Pompey was taken after a vigorous 

Larnage offered to pay the Spaniards twenty-five piastres or 150 pounds 
for each captured Maroon, 

1751 — Follow-up on Extradition 

It is estimated that at least three thousand Maroons are “safe with the 
Spaniards*”* 3 The colonial authorities delegated a new agent after tentative 
advances undertaken by de Brcmont, officer of the Mirebalats Militia* 

1755—Poison in Contagion 

Poisoning by slaves increased with no recognizable means of combatting 
the contagion* The courts condemned the guilty; some work gangs were 
practically decimated by capital punishment ordered by the court. The feeling 
grew that the ringleaders were not affected by these strong measures; that to 
catch the leaders, slaves suspected of murdering by poison should be isolated, 
but U was pointed out that isolation in the colony would be ineffective. The 
administrators then decided to banish to France those considered dangerous 
and even carried out this decision in one or two cases* Studies on the kinds 
of poison in use were ordered* The investigations did nothing to calm minds 
because they were inconclusive* They concluded with the question as to 
whether the poisons were vegetable or metallic, whether die slaves or the 
apothecaries supplies were the source. The cause of all this evil was the 
very slave whom the colonists were slow in recognizing as the source of their 
Uls, because he was at the same time their wealth,** 

A note to the minister denounced the freedmen: "Their plantations are 
the haunts and shelter of many deserters from the slave work gangs.” 

1757—Midor Arrested 

The Bahoruco bands were sometimes “more aggressive,” at other times 
“reserved.” New hunting parties were launched to little avail; only twelve 
prisoners were brought in. 

The Intendant Lalanne denounced the crime of poisoning (letter of 22 
December 1757). 

In March of 1757 the African Medor at the time of his arrest declared; 

A Chronology of Marronage 317 

If blacks commit poisoning, the end purpose is to gain freedom. * * * 
Among those whose only thought is to destroy the colony there is also a 
secret which the whites know nothing about and of which the free blacks in 
the main are the cause, using any means to increase their number so as to 
be strong enough to oppose the whites when necessary, 04 

1758—Frange is Macandal 

The Jacmel quarter took up anus against the Maroons in the same year 
that the extraordinary Macandal^ eighteen-year period of marronage came 
to an end. 

The slave Macandal bom in Africa belonged to Mr Normand de M&zy's 
plantation in Limbe. His hand had to be cut off when it was caught in a 
mill, and they made him an animal keeper. He ran away. During his deser¬ 
tion he became notorious for his poisonings which spread terror among the 
blacks, all of whom he held in submission. He ran a school for teaching his 
damnable art, he had agents in every corner of the colony, and death fol¬ 
lowed at his slightest signal. Finally, he had conceived in his vast plan to 
remove from the surface of Saint-Domingue every person not a black, and 
his continuously increasing successes had engendered a fear which made 
them more certain still. The vigilance of the magistrates and of the govern¬ 
ment did not avail to discover the means of doing away with this scoundrel, 
and those misdeeds punished by almost instant death only served to cause 
more terror. One day the Dufresne plantation slaves 6 * in Limbe had organ¬ 
ized a large calendar Macandal, w r ho had long been accustomed to im¬ 
punity, came to take part in the dance. A young black, perhaps because of 
the impression the presence of this monster had made on him went to Mr. 
Duplessis to tell him about the calenda, Duplessis, a surveyor, and Mr, 
Trivan, w r ho were at this plantation, had rum dispensed with such prodigality 
that all the slaves became drunk, and Macandal, in spite of his prudence, 
became muddle-headed. They arrested him in one of the slave huts whence 
he was taken to a room at one end of the main house. His hands were tied 
behind his back and for lack of irons horsehair was used. The two whites 
wrote to Cap to announce the capture and with two slave domestics they 
guarded Macandal, all the while keeping two loaded pistols on a table with 
a light. The guards fell asleep. Macandal aided by two blacks perhaps, 
freed his hands, extinguished the candle, opened a window in the gable of 
the house, jumped into the grass and hopping like a magpie reached some 
coffee trees. A breeze sprung up rattling the window hook, a sound that 
awakened the guards and with great excitement Macandal was hunted down 
by dogs and soon recaptured. 

Macandal who, had he used the two pistols instead of fleeing, would 
certainly have escaped was condemned to be burned alive by a Cap Court 
order dated 10 January 1758, Since he had several times boasted that if 
the whites took him he would escape via different forms, he declared he 
would change to a fly to escape the flames. By chance the post to which 
they attached the chains was rotten and his violent movements caused by 


the torment of the flames pulled out the ring bolt and he toppled over 
the faggots. The blacks cried out: "Macandai is saved”; the terror was 
extreme; all doors were dosed. The Swiss detachment guarding the execu¬ 
tion site had it evacuated; the jailer Masse was about to kill him with his 
sword when upon the orders of the Attorney General he was tied to a plank 
and thrown into the fire. Although MacandaPs body had been burnt to ashes 
many of the slaves even today believe he did not die under punishment. 

The memory of this man for whom no epithet suffices still brings to 
mind such sinister ideas that the blacks call poisons and the act of poisoning 
macandals and this name among them is become one of the most injurious 
of addresses. While in prison a Paris artist named Dupont painted a por¬ 
trait of Macandai and three of his main accomplices and took them to 
France. His widow having put them up for sale on the Quai dc Louvre, Mr. 
Courrcjolles bought and gave them to Mr. Maze res, upon whose death they 
were again sold. I bought the one of Macandai from a street vendor in Ver¬ 
sailles at the comer of the great stable on Paris Avenue. It is an oil portrait 
beautifully executed. One could write volumes on all that has been said of 
Macandai but it was left to an unknowm to present him in the Mercurc dc 
France 15 September 1787 as the hero of a tale entitled “A True Story,” 
in which love and jealousy serve as powerful stimuli.* 8 

A Letter from Cap t 24 June 1758 

We arc in general consternation here, Sir, continuously between life and 
death. , , . Last January in Limbe about five leagues from here Mr. Tcllier's 
slave Francois Macandai was arrested. ... He was for eighteen years a 
maroon. By day he held out in the mountains and at night he would come 
down to the neighboring plantations where he had contacts with the slaves. 
The rascal upon being put to the question named a great number of accom¬ 
plices—slaves of various masters, whom they arrested. The number of deaths 
he caused during eighteen years of manonage are innumerable. He was at 
last executed at five-thirty on January 20th. . . , Since this execution four 
or five of them are burned each month. Already there have been twenty-four 
blacks or slaves and three free blacks w f ho have met the same end. But as a 
result of their being put to the question the constabulary arrests nine or ten 
others whom they name as accomplices. Thus the number of persons grows 
accordingly as a criminal is executed. Who know's w'hen this terrible business 
will end. 

Some say the blacks who have been executed poisoned to death thirty 
to forty whites including their masters, their wives and children. Others 
claim two hundred to three hundred slaves belonging to different masters. 
There are planters who had fifty to sixty slaves working on their plantation. 
In fewer than fifteen days only four or five, sometimes one, remain. Wc are 
frightened to see that all the guilty ones are those who work in the big 
house, those in whom we have most confidence: coachmen, cooks and other 
domestics. They very carefully pick the occasion when their masters will 
have twenty-five to thirty guests at table enjoying a feast. They poison the 
tea, the soup or other dishes. We are afraid to visit one another and don’t 

A Chronology of Manonage 319 

know whom to trust, it being impossible to do without the service of these 

I must now tell you how Providence came to the aid of the Colony for 
so long threatened with total destruction. Last December the court con¬ 
vened to try six or seven slaves who were arrested for poisoning. Four were 
condemned to the flames, among them a young girl who belonged to a resi¬ 
dent of SoufHere, M.V, by name. She was to be executed last. As they 
were to put the question to her and were about to apply the matches she 
said she did not want to suffer the Arc twice and that she was going to tell 

all. She named fifty accomplices as many males as females, who were 

picked up, some in Cap and others in the country. She provided information 
leading to the arrest of Francois Macandal their leader. She declared that 
the Jesuit priest who some time earlier had come to the prison to hear her 
confession had forbidden her, under penalty of eternal damnation, to reveal 
her accomplices and directed her rather to suffer all the torments she might 
be made to endure; but since the whites had not harmed her she w r as anxious 
to contribute to their safety. . . . Informed of the conduct of the Jesuit 

Father the Governor forbade him entry to the jail. All other Reverend 

Fathers (Jesuits) were likewise prohibited, and this edict was rigorously 
osberved. But the people complain that they were let off lightly, for the 
whole story is not told. They are suspected of much more. 

One reads in another letter that of all the frightful multitude of blacks 
who have died from poisoning it is noticeable that they have not lost a 
single one. They and their blacks are the only ones who arc safe. It is not 
difficult to draw conclusions from this. 70 

Of all the Maroon chiefs, none had a greater, more deserved reputation 
than Francois Macandal, executed in 1758. This Macandal was a black 
from Guinea and long-time slave on Plantation Lc Normand, in Limbe. 
Having lost an arm when his hand was caught in a cane mill, he was made 
an animal keeper. He ran away and hid in the mountains, where he soon 
exercised the most extraordinary dominance over his companions. In addi¬ 
tion to very great leadership skills he possessed all the qualities necessary 
for reducing and fanatieizing the credulous and primitive creatures around 
him. M Hc predicted the future,** w'rote a contemporary. ‘ He experienced 
revelations and possessed an eloquence far different from the imitative elo¬ 
quence of our orators, and much stronger and vigorous. In addition he was 
possessed of rare courage and the staunchest spirit which he was able to 
maintain in the face of the most cruel torments and punishments. He had 
persuaded the negroes he was immortal, and he had indeed imbued them 
with such terror and such respect that they considered it an honor to sit at 
his knees and to pay him reverence due only to the Divinity whose envoy 
he claimed to be. The most beautiful women vied for the honor of being 
admitted to his bed. M (Memoire sur la creation d'un corps de gens de couleur 
levc a Saint-Domingue, 1779 A.M.C, Corr. gener, Samt-Domingue, Tome 
II, C9 Carton XXIX) 

One certain fact is that Macandal was more than and greater than a 
simple Maroon leader. Not because he disdained the pillaging of plantations. 


the sacking of mansions, the stealing of herds and other common slave ex¬ 
ploits; but he appears to have envisioned the possibility of making marron- 
age the center of an organized resistance against the whites. He had a 
notion of the races on Saint-Domingue. One day, amid a crowd, he had 
brought to him a vase full of water into which he placed three kerchiefs, a 
yellow, one white, one black. First he pulled out the yellow, “Here/ 1 he said, 
“this stands for the first inhabitants of Saint-Domingue; they were yellow. 
Here arc the present inhabitants.” He showed a white kerchief. "And here 
arc the ones who wilf remain masters of the Island." It was the black ker¬ 
chief (Notes historiques A.M.C F3 136 p, 198). 

He was able to persuade many blacks that it was he the Creator had 
sent to Saint-Domingue to effect the destruction of the whites and to free 
the blacks. In addition, he exercised his ascendancy, not only over the fugi¬ 
tives around him, but also o% r cr almost all the slaves in the Cap area. Extra¬ 
ordinarily bold, he frequented plantations without fear to awaken the zeal 
of his partisans, always untouchable even unknown to the whites for dose 
to six years, making use of this obscurity slowly to pursue the plan that, as 
he thought, was to assure his triumph. The plan was based on the unleash¬ 
ing of the most terrible scourge ever to be known in Saint-Domingue and in 
general all over the old slave colonies: poison. ., . 

To focus again on Macandal, what made him original was that he linked 
the ravages of poison with the practice of marronage. If we believe certain 
documents, he had a plan for destroying all the whites by this method. Ac¬ 
cording to one document I have several times cited: 

His orders on this point w r erc carried out with a passive and blind obedi¬ 
ence by which the Old Man of the Mountain had been able to lead all his 
disciples. He caused the death of all the masters and mistresses against w r hom 
they harbored some slight resentment. That slave most attached to bis mas¬ 
ter would have felt he was committing a crime against the Divinity had he 
delayed the slightest in carrying out his orders or if he had not most re¬ 
ligiously guarded the secret. For more than six years the colonists were igno¬ 
rant of the fact that within the bosom of the colony there existed so dan¬ 
gerous a maroon, with the possible exception of the master who had bought 
him and long ago thought of him as being dead in the woods. At last this 
negro set about to execute his plan of destruction which he had followed 
with a constancy and skill one is almost tempted to admire. The day and 
hour were set when every vase holding water in every house in the City of 
Cap was to be empoisoned. The hour at which he and his troop were to 
surprise the whites in the anguish of their death throes was indicated; the 
captains, lieutenants and sublieutenants were all appointed. He had an accu¬ 
rate list of all the blacks who from that point were to follow him and then 
fan out across the plain massacring all the whites. He knew the names of all 
his followers in every work gang. In truth the colony was about to be 
wiped out w-hen chance alone, a miracle, revealed the plan. During his 
time as a maroon, he killed perhaps as many blacks as whites—six thousand 

A Chronology of Marronage 321 

in three years according to a 1758 text—proof that these vengeful acts were 
certainly inspired by the same feelings which ordinarily guided those who 
committed them. In any case, when finally he was apprehended in 1757, 
the colony was terrorized and the news of his capture was greeted with 
universal thanksgiving. , . . For the terror he had caused he was cruelly 
repaid. By order of the Cap court, 20 January 1758, he was condemned to 
be burned alive. He had succeeded in persuading the blacks that it would 
be impossible for the whites to have him killed in case they caught him, and 
that the Creator would change him on the point of death into a mosquito to 
reappear more terrible than ever. As chance would have it his neck ring 
was poorly secured to the stake so that with the first torments the fire 
brought him he pulled it out. No more was needed to persuade those of his 
color that the prophecy was fulfilled; so much so that three quarters of the 
blacks are still steeped in this belief, and are daily expecting to see him 
return to keep his promises, and that the first black who dares to call himself 
Macandal can a second time imperil the dependency of Cap, 

Nevertheless, after Macandal poisonings continued, A Mr. Rochefort, 
writing in 1760, reports the following: 

On the very same day marked by the wholesale execution of his accom¬ 
plices a number of Negro cooks poisoned their masters and their friends. n 
At the moment of execution, the poorly secured stake fell and Macandal 
with it, Immediately there was an evcry-man-for-himself scramble accom¬ 
panied by cries of “Macandal is saved!” House doors were banged shut; 
soon the whole town was in a state of alarm, . . . The sudden deaths attrib¬ 
uted to poison did not stop. The Conseil du Cap took preventive measures 
againstt the unknown malefactors: on 11 March 1758, prohibiting the mak¬ 
ing of Macandals or witchcraft items, because of their profaning of holy 
matters the prohibition against any slave making and distributing garde-corps 
[gris-gris] and macandals is extended to freedmen; slave restrictions against 
bearing arms, selling provisions, assembling after seven in the evening, 
even in churches are tightened; freedmen sheltering a maroon were pun¬ 
ished with the loss of their freedom including the freedom of family mem¬ 
bers living with Them; finally no freed man black or colored was to wear an 
6pee or sword or cutlass in city or tow-n unless they were officers of serving 
in the constabulary or under service orders. . . , None of these measures 
proved effective. Poison took its toll as before, that is if all the mysterious 
deaths of the time are to be attributed to poisoning. It was considered 
proven that Macandal intended to destroy all the whiles. Later on there was 
agreement that the great cause of the misdeeds attributed to poison was the 
abuse of authorized colonial customs, whence followed jealousy and an im¬ 
patience to immediately enjoy advantages stipulated in wills of the masters. 
, , , It should be noted here that the English colonies suffered a great deal 
from slave revolts, that the Saint-Domingue slaves were of the same origin 
and mentality as those in the English colonies, that the Saint-Domingue ter¬ 
rain like that of Jamaica was favorable to insurrections, and even more so, 
due to the proximity of the Spanish sector.. * * 72 


—A decree by the court at tap enjoined the freeborn to have the free status 
of their mothers verified (7 April 1758)* 

—And by order of the King , *, 

All residents are forbidden to allow gatherings and superstitious ceremonies 
which certain slaves are accustomed to hold at the death of one of them 
and which they improperly call prayers * * * upon penalty of a fine of three 
hundred pounds against masters and the whip for slaves. All the King's sub¬ 
jects even if they be not officers are enjoined to close in on these assembled 
slaves and to take them to prison. . . . Slaves are likewise prohibited from 
circulating on the main roads or in cities and towns with weighted or 
knobbed stticks. 

1759 — New Precautionary Measures 

Slaves u who t in conformity with a declaration filed by their masters, arc 
to give armed service will do so only in their company and at their side, 
behind militia companies , * * and in no case are these blacks to form a 
separate body of troops*” 73 

1760 — Poison Still Active 

It is a fact that in Saint-Domingue in 1760—although so great a number of 
blacks had been put to death that there w r ere planters whose work gangs had 
almost been decimated—poison still took a severe toll, 7 * 

1761 — The Clergy against Marronage 

New restrictions decreed on 18 February 1761: 

In the larger cities a priest ordinarily called a cure ties negres served the spir¬ 
itual needs of the staves, though in fact this arrangement existed only in 
Cap. This priest usually had a very great influence on his flock, who con¬ 
sidered themselves to have formed a separate little church, independent of the 
whites. The negroes' priest w f as not allowed to baptize and marry slaves on 
his own, For these, he had to serve in the capacity of an assistant to the 
priest of the w ? hitcs, the only priest in charge. His only duties were to cate¬ 
chize the slaves, make them recite the prayers, and preach the word of God 
to them without fulfilling any priestly function for them. And since the 
slaves had developed the habit of meeting in the church day and night they 
had appointed beadles and church wardens among them, dignitaries who 
passed from one house or plantation to another preaching and catechising, 
and even, in the absence of the priest, preaching in the church itself. All of 
these actions were made illegal; in addition it was decreed that the churches 
would be dosed at sundown and from noon to two o'clock. 75 

It is here appropriate to discuss the clergy's position relative to slavery 
and the efforts of the priests in support of or against marronage. One Saint- 

A Chronology "of Marronage 323 

Domingue missionary requested the appointment of a priest to be specifically 
assigned to Maroons. There were good priests who openly expressed sym¬ 
pathy with the slave’s cause. One needs only observe the numerous measures 
and declarations of the period aimed at curbing or denouncing known com¬ 
plicities by priests favorable to the secret war against slavery. There is a long 
list of good apostles who, like Father Bouton, a cure des negres, dead of 
fatigue in 1742, tried to alleviate the slave’s suffering, to lighten the weight 
of his chains. In addition, many later on would associate themselves with 
rebellions, favor desertions, protect Maroons, spread instruction among the 
blacks, even serve as active agents, sharing the dangers of armed revolts, 
like Fathers Phiilipe and Bienvenu, like Abbot Sulpice, who, strongly linked 
with Jean-Fran?ois and Biassou, had had Mass in all the parishes in revolt 
for the repose of Boukman’s soul; TC like Abbot Ouvi&re, whose attachment 
to rebel bands was well known; like Father de la Hage, “the most ardent 
apostle of liberty for the blacks;” 77 and the well-known priest from Dondon 
"arrested at Soint-Raphacl and sent to prison in Cap along with his precious 
company,” 78 toward the close of a career full of adventure and perils. 

Because of their repeated efforts to support and strengthen slave deser¬ 
tions, the Jesuits especially merited the colonists’ hostility. According to Girod 
Chantrans, the Jesuits "applied themselves to gaining the negroes’ confidence, 
teaching them to recognize the sublimity of their being, the majesty of man," 7 ® 
and Hilliard d’Aubcrteuil points out that, “because the Jesuits preached, 
gathered the blacks together, . . . the colonists blame them for all the perni¬ 
cious crimes. . . .” fl0 Father Cabon confirms that “they were accused by the 
Procureur General of teaching false doctrines, of inciting slaves to run away 
and of being behind the poisonings.” 81 

But there were priests who were like the freedmen. If their sympathy for 
the slave was very often shown, it was expressed only in individual examples 
and not in a concerted and continued policy of the clergy. Priests and congre¬ 
gations owned slaves, possessed personal and landed property, managed 
plantations, were large-scale planters and sugar manufacturers, and owned 
oxcarts or coffee mills. Father Arthaud, formerly priest in Arcahaye and 
settled in Pctit-Goave, 82 is an example of the latter. 

In spite of their pastoral commitments, the Capuchins, Jacobins, Domi¬ 
nicans, and Jesuits were all colonizers and were trapped in the colonial men¬ 
tality and the dissolution of the cities, in the cupidity and debauchery. Abbot 
Enos offered for sale “some skilled slaves, one of whom is seven months 
pregnant.” 83 Abbot Castellane was tried in Cap on 19 November 1765 “for 
having killed a slave on the grounds of his presbytery,” A Cayes-Jacmel 
priest suffered "shameful illnesses resulting from debauches.” Numerous 
priests “bring up little bastards born of their concubines.” 

It should not be surprising that the colonial authorities utilized religion 
or rather the dependable influence of the priests over peoples of a mystic or 
a nim at mentality to contain the blacks, maintain discipline, and fight against 


marronage. As supporters of the regime, it was the task of the priests to 
defend colonialism and, as a matter of personal interest, to court the confi¬ 
dence of the Africans* It was in the shabbincss of this double standard that 
most of the priests and missionaries moved. Pamphilc dc Lacroix writes: 

The realization that most of the priests who remained among them (the 
blacks in revolt) did so only to take advantage of their ignorance, or to 
channel it at the mercy of a raging fanaticism shrivels the soul with grief* 
These false apostles clothed in the mentality and the mantle of religion fol¬ 
lowed the bloody ensign of the first slaves in revolt (that is, the white child 
they paraded at the tip of a pike) only to remain or to become eligible for 
an extra salary of which Europe had not the slightest idea. . . . The income 
of the Saint-Domingue clergy totaled 1,920,000 francs which, divided among 
forty to fifty eligiblcs, brought each an income of from thirty to forty thou¬ 
sand francs. There were nevertheless some priests who remained poor. These 
latter were the real priests whose Christian humility could never court the 
apostolic prefects. Mr, Malouet observes, and rightly so, that negroes are 
the most superstitious of humans. Those who have been baptized and fre¬ 
quent the church haven't the slightest notion of religion. They know only 
the priests and the images: in general they believe them to be a force, a 
magic virtue. They mix with this belief all the extravagances of idolatrous 
cults. Neither lime nor concern is spared for teaching them and their 
wretched lives lire thus spent in this pitiable debasement. Although they are 
witnesses to priestly intemperance and the resultant lack of consideration 
they nevertheless fear and are submissive to them. These observations 
stamped with genius and truth serve to make more deplorable, more crimi¬ 
nal the behavior of the Saint-Domingue priests with respect to the insurrec¬ 
tion of the blacks. From the beginning they could have contained it by using 
their influence and speaking in the name of a God of peace, but they were 
greedy, and when they saw the wealth of the whites among whom they had 
no credit melt away they chose to remain with the white butchers in the 
hope of continuing to profit from their blind ignorance. 84 

In our book Lcs marrons du Syllabaire we drew' attention to a “Ruling 
on the disciplining of negroes addressed to the priests in the French islands 
of America,” 65 The text may have dated from 1776, That it bears “neither 
date nor signature” is unimportant. In this authentic document Father de 
Coutances who had spent some twenty years in the islands proposed not to 
inaugurate but rather to condense a series of current practices selected from 
colonial ritual, practical use of the sacraments and the threat of hellfirc and 
eternal damnation for the purpose of reducing the slave to complete sub¬ 
missiveness and resignation. This regulation, “in the common interest,” was 
aimed at repressing marronage, poisoning and abortions, the most common 
forms of slave revolts. In a way, it codified the colonial catechism as it was 
used. Verification of this lies in the fact that the text of the sermon that the 
priest in surplice and stole was supposed to read in Creole to the Maroons 

A Chronology of Marronage 325 

“led to the center of the nave and made to kneel” hardly differed, according 
to Father Gislcr, from the argument used to bring back runaway staves. We 
cite Father Margat of Cap: 

We will content ourselves with exhorting our negroes not to pursue this de¬ 
testable practice and if one of them has had the misfortune to do so we will 
try, if he comes to us, to get him hack in his master's good graces. 

And here is Father Fauque’s address to a group of runaways: 

Remember my dear children that though you be slaves you are nevertheless 
Christians tike your masters; that from the day of your baptism you profess 
the same religion as they which teaches you that those who do not live the 
Christian life shall be cast into hell after death. How unfortunate for you 
if, after having been slaves to men of this world and time you should become 
slaves of the devil for all eternity. This misfortune will certainly fall upon 
you if you do not return to your duty since you are in a condition of 
habitual damnation for in addition to the wrong you do your masters by 
depriving them of your labor, you do not come to Mass on holy days; you 
do not approach the sacraments. . . . Come to me then my dear friends. 30 

In addition, here in Father Coutance’s “Ruling on Discipline” is his recom¬ 
mendation for charging Maroons: 

Unfaithful and wicked servant, since you have strayed from the service of 
your master and the obedience you owed to God and the Holy Church in 
order to give way to the sinfulness of your heart and to expose yourself to 
the certain loss of your salvation and your life, we, by the authority of our 
holy ministry, condemn you to serve penance for the period of . . , warning 
you that should you fail in this and show no clear proof of repentance and 
making amends you will be rejected among Christians, forbidden entry to 
the church and abandoned to a death without sacrament, without mourners, 
and without a burial place. 87 

In 1761 there was a new expedition against Bahoruco. 

i 76^-—T/ie Primer Made Illegal; Jesuits Suppressed 

In much of the correspondence concerning the islands, mention is made 
of the “necessity to keep slaves in a state of deepest ignorance.” From this 
date it is increasingly highlighted that “instruction is incompatible with the 
existence of the colonies.” There is the demand for closing “all schools 
which blacks and colored people are admitted to,” or else the sentiment “that 
at least it is more prudent not to teach them to read.” 

—In France a royal edict suppressed the Jesuits, whose missionaries had 


already been expelled from Saint-Domingue accused, on 12 November 1764, 
of “being associated with the slaves." 

—The militia, which had been abolished notably to please the poor whites 
alarmed at seeing colored people armed, was by way of being reestablished 
around the beginning of the year. An ordinance of 12 November 1764 de¬ 
creed that the rich pay two hundred francs annually to insure the expenses 
of a colonial troop. 

—In the press with which Saint-Domingue was at last endowed the admin¬ 
istrators recommended a section be henceforth devoted to public announce¬ 
ment of runaway slaves and those captured or for sale, 

1765 — Militia Reinforced 

An ordinance of 15 January 1765 reinforced the militia and announced 
that “all the colony's free residents over sixteen years of age will constitute 
the regular and reserve forces for Saint-Domingue (ban et arriere ban)” The 
constabulary is henceforth “divided into thirty-six squads each with a per¬ 
manent residence." 88 

—Mr. d'Estaing deplored “the frequency of poisoning in the island-” 08 

1766 — Slave Escapes 

To these elements of disorder [discontent of the whites] are added the here¬ 
tofore repressed pretensions of some of the freed men who by their own 
labor had acquired independence. , , . Even the slaves, especially the creoles 
were escaping the plantations, taking ofF to distant areas, bearing arms to 
simulate being freedmen and living by their wits, ready to serve any cause. 
Not only the men, but also the women thus took their freedom, the latter 
finding no difficulty in establishing a new home afar off. 51 ® 

1767 — Measures Forbidding the Unauthorized Sale of Arms and 
Contraband in Africans to Replace Runaways 

An administrators' ordinance prohibited free colored people from buy¬ 
ing munitions without permission of the King's Attorney, 

One of the reasons for this ordinance was the abuse of munitions made 
available to all comers, in the sates granted to Maroons by freedmen. The 
constabulary's archers had been attacked by maroons with firearms; mur¬ 
derous encounters resulted; in the neighboring quarters there was fear of a 
similar novelty,® 1 

For both colonies (the French and the Spanish) marronage continued 
to be a source of constant embarrassment; in spite of the still frequent poison¬ 
ings the number of Blacks increases: the 1763 census registered 206,539 
slaves; that of 1765, 227,637; that of 1766, 241,497, or an increase of almost 
20 percent in four years. This increase is not due entirely to the trade since 

A Chronology of Marronage 32? 

in 1765 it was estimated there had been only 10 t 00Q blacks imported and 
13,000 in 1766; the figure for the first six months of the following year was 
8,290. Many of the new slaves came from Jamaica where mamma ge raged 
and the English were reputed to unload on Saint-Domingue individuals who 
were troublemakers.® 2 

1770 — Marronage at a Peak 

Following the earthquake that desolated Port-au-Prince on 3 June 1770, 

. , * the number of maroons increased to such proportions that we had the 
gravest fears for the tranquility of the colony. Security became nonexistent 
and it was unwise to wander alone in the hills. 03 

1771 — The Maroons ai Ponds Parisien 

Alarmed at the extent of desertions, the king issued a new ordinance. It 
asserted that “refusal, because of greed, to provide the slaves their necessities 
is the cause of marronage.” 04 

—Early in 1771, Morne La Selle Maroons “appear close to Fonds Parisien.” 
It became necessary to install a constabulary post there (19 February) be¬ 
cause of the increase in plantations. 

1774 — Maroons at Cul-de-Sac; Fort-Dauphin Ravaged by NoeTs Bands 

Maroons reappeared to the north of Plaine du Cul-de-Sac. They were 
contained by a detachment sent to Grands Bois. Fort-Dauphin was in turn 
pillaged by the Maroon leader Noe!, B5 who was caught, condemned by the 
court at Cap, and executed. 

1775 — Brigades for Pursuit of Maroons Increased 

In February the detachments at Croix des Bouquets, Grand Bois, Roche- 
blanche, and Fonds Parisien had to be strengthened, while Boucan Patate 
and Boucan Greffm, in the heights of Plaine du Cul-de-Sac, awaited detach¬ 
ments, 00 

1776 — Canga and the Candide Brothers 

Noel’s depradations in the North were continued by Telemaque Canga 
in Trou, by Isaac and Pyrrhus Candide in Ecrevisses canton. 07 

Incursions by the Bahoruco maroons again picked up with intensity begin¬ 
ning 1776. During the year a new constabulary post had to be established 
at Boucan Patate, at a point which until then had been in the Maroons 1 
zone where there arc some plantations. 00 


1777—Black Jacques; CuUde-Sac Invaded by Maroons 

The hunt for the slave Jacques led to the discovery of a new poison 
case, A court decree condemned Jacques “who belongs to Mr, Corbieres to 
be burned alive for having been found with a supply of arsenic, and for 
having poisoned more than one hundred of his master’s animals over a 
period of eight months” [Loix ct Constitutions V 805].** 

—A Supreme Court decree forbade the taking of any blacks or mixed-bloods 
to France, so as to avoid “their acquiring the idea of independence and 
equality,” 100 

The Treaty of Aranjuez, between France and Spain, provided that Ma¬ 
roons “shall be punctually and faithfully returned upon demand, the price 
paid to be twelve piastres gourdes , Married maroons belong to the masters 
where they were married. Fugitives from justice will be returned only upon 
the Governor Generali guarantee that they will not be punished for their 
offense. The two nations agree to pursue Maroons who have withdrawn into 
the mountains,” 101 

Cul-de-Sac was no longer safe against maroon raids. D'Ennery, together 
with Solano, the Spanish president, organized an expedition into the heart 
of their retreats to cut them down. The leadership of this hunt was assigned 
in the king’s name to the adjutant from Mirebalais, Saint-Vilm6, who on 27 
December 1776 left Croix-des-Bouquets with a detachment of twenty grena¬ 
diers, twenty infantrymen from the Port-au-Prince regiment, and 140 militia¬ 
men, a much larger force than usual. They made contact with the Maroons 
on 6 January 1777 without engaging them, for they were holed up in im¬ 
penetrable jungles, and returned to their departure point completely ex¬ 
hausted. A second expedition one month later was equally fruitless in spite 
of being reinforced with fifteen grenadiers or infantrymen. This time, the 
failure was attributed to a water shortage from which the soldiers suffered 
terribly. On 6 March, for the third lime, the column left Port-au-Prince well 
supplied with rations and water; it returned on the twenty-sixth through 
Spanish territory, not having sighted the enemy. The caves in which they 
made their retreats were empty* Finally, in April, a fourth troop of thirty 
men swept as far as Fonds Parisien without results, 103 

1778—Maroons Reappear in Boucan Greffin 

Parish priests, notaries, and public officers were enjoined to check the 
free or slave status of colored people and blacks* 

—On 6 May, Maroons reappeared at Boucan Greffin* In November, they 
returned to the fray. It w*as decided to establish a guardpost there. Little by 
little, the defense circle was drawn tighter around the mountains, though 
giving no hope that the rebels would be effectively contained* 103 
—The king of France recognized the independence of the United States, 

A Chronology of Marronage 329 

On 28 June, the opening of hostilities against England was announced. The 
news reached Saint-Domingue in August 1778, Colored men volunteered for 
the campaign in Georgia, Subsequently, several hundred Afro-Americans 
would enlist and would bring back from the American war a greater self- 
confidence in the resistance to slavery* 

1780 — Poisonings; One-Arm Cotas 

In the course of a slave trial, the magistrate declared that poisonings 
committed by slaves had as motive “revenge for the abuse of slaves, espe¬ 
cially of the women, by masters and overseers/’ Fifty-six years after One-Leg 
Colas, a new Colas appeared, this time One-Arm Colas, The Afftches Amir- 
icaines of IS January 1780 revealed the marronage of five Negroes as 

Blaise, Noelle, Jean-Frangois, creoles, jean Baptiste suffering a hernia 
and one Cotas a Del aye with one arm cut ofT; all five have banded together 
and are causing great disturbances according to reports, Mr, Labbee requests 
all Residents to please take all measures for apprehending said negroes in¬ 
asmuch as in a number of sugar mills they have relatives who are heads of 
the work gang and who could easily prevent their capture. Contact farmer 
Labbee of Plantation Del aye, 

1781—Maroons at Bahoruco 

In March a new and fruitless attack is attempted against the incessant 
depredations of the Bahoruco Maroons, 

1783— u A Powder Barter 

Mr, de Rouvray, brigadier in the king's armies and Saint-Domingue 
proprietor, confessed that: “a slave colony is a city under threat of assault; 
the people live atop a powder keg.” 104 

1784 — Deaths and Desertions 

The Royal Ordinance of 3 December 1784 made it illegal to subject a 
slave to more than fifty lashes of the whip, “to beat them with sticks, mutilate 
or kill them by whatever means,” The administration attempted to halt deser¬ 
tions by casing the slave’s lot and by restricting the permitted cruelties. The 
ordinance made clear its fear “of insubordination and desertion in slave 

In October of the same year, because of the manpower shortage caused 
by deaths and desertions, a special bonus of 100 pounds was granted for 
each slave brought into the southern sector. 


1785 — Santiague; Phitlipe; Kebinda—Story of the Bahoruco Rebellion 

The third cause for celebrity is the eighty-five-year sojourn of the maroons 
in the Bahoruco or Beale Mountains and the surrounding areas which were 
the theater of their cruel plundering, and which they regarded as their per¬ 
sonal domain. In May 1702, Mr. de Gallifet had these blacks pursued by 
fifteen men who were sixty-eight days in the woods, sometimes not finding 
water for four or five days. They killed three blacks, captured eleven; some 
thirty escaped; their provisions and farms w p erc destroyed. Again, on 25 
October 1715, orders had to be issued to expel them, and Mr. Dukors, com¬ 
mandant at Cul-de-Sac, did so in 1817. In their area he found a forty-foot 
well. They again appeared in 1719, at which time their leader, Michel, was 

In 1728 Charles Baudouin, later commandant of the Jacmcl militia, moved 
against them with a number of local people and took forty-six prisoners. In 
1733, thirty-two were captured. In 1740 they went to Grand Bois du Mire- 
balais, whence Mister Marifiet, assistant provost marshall of the Cul-de- 
Sac Constabulary, set out with twenty-two archers to attack them. They 
killed seven and captured fourteen, all of whom had been born in the woods, 
and from whom they learned that twenty-three had escaped. In 1742, 
they again appeared at Anses-a-Pitres. The people of Jacmel marched 
against them and w p iped out a large number. These negroes then moved to 
another location; when they had sufficiently increased their numbers, they 
again took up their incursions, using steel and fire and kidnapping blacks. Mr. 
Baudouin Desm a ratios, son-in-law to Mr. Marillet, sought them out and 
captured twelve. 

In December 1761 there w p as yet another expedition. Safe behind breast¬ 
works, the blacks danced their defiance of their adversaries. The latter, furi¬ 
ous, jumped into ditches, the bottoms of which were studded with sharpened 
pine branches and the tops overgrown with brambles and vines; fourteen 
mulattocs, almost half the attacking force, were crippled. Many blacks were 
killed, and others were taken with their arrows and firearms. During Mr. 
Bclzuncc's tenure as general, the leader of the negroes took his name and 
renewed their depredations, which seemed to have slackened when, in 1776, 
Mr. d'Ennery was obliged to establish a post at Boucan-Patate, which the 
blacks attacked while the guardhouse was being constructed, and another 
near the dry bed of the Anse-a-Pitres River. In spite of this, from Grands- 
Bois and Fond-Parisien, as far as Saje-Trou, they ventured forth to assassi¬ 
nate, to pillage, and to kidnap negroes. In addition, on 17 August, they 
killed a plantation manager. 

The heads of the tw p o colonies then agreed upon a joint pursuit. Mr. dc 
Saint-Vilme, the king's adjutant at Mirebalais, arrived at Croix-des-Bouquets 
on 27 December 1776, with a detachment of twenty grenadiers and twenty 
infantrymen from the Port-au-Prince regiment. Colored militiamen from the 
Cul-de-Sac and Port-au-Prince parishes combined to comprise 180 men 
with the addition of those from Mirebalais camped at Grands-Bois and 
those marching from Jacmel. Mr. Saint-Vilme located the blacks' position 
at Bahoruco and attacked on 6 January 1777, but, the dogs having barked 

A Chronology of Marronage 331 

the night before, the negroes moved quickly into the woods, which were so 
thick that the troops could not penetrate. Prostrated with fatigue, the dc- 
tachment, some of w'hom had been reduced to drinking their urine, with¬ 
drew in order to obtain provisions. More than thirty mulattoes deserted, and 
a delay was necessary pending the dispatch of fifteen more grenadiers or 

A month's rations were moved up. Then Saint-Vilme again advanced, 
only to find not a single Maroon, A Spaniard offered to guide Saint-Vilme 
to the caves, to which the negroes had had to retire. Since he had said that 
for five or six days there would be no available water, tin containers holding 
six pints of water were provided from Port-au-Prince, along with an addi¬ 
tional twenty-five men from the Port-au-Prince regiment. At Cayes, a month's 
provisions for one hundred men were loaded on boat and sent to Beute, 
When these were delivered the troops resumed their advance; it was then 
6 March, They arrived at the caves, but the negroes had just abandoned 
them. Then they went on into Spanish territory, whence the detachment, 
some eighty regimentals, returned to Port-au-Prince on 26 March, 

This expedition cost eighty thousand pounds, and over a period of three 
months, the residents of Port-au-Prince supplied fifty slaves and forty mules 
for transporting provisions. From the beginning of April, the maroons moved 
rapidly into Fond-Parisien. Thirty infantrymen of the Port-au-Princc regi¬ 
ment were sent there under the orders of Mr, de Coderc. On 6 May 1777 
they began ravaging Boucan-Gretlin, They reappeared there on 29 Novem¬ 
ber 1778, sacked Mr. Coupe's place, and took away his housekeeper. This 
black woman, Anne, was tied, gagged and dragged away by force when she 
refused to follow the maroons. They returned in two days* march, Kebinda, 
the creole leader bom in the woods, ga\ p e Anne to his servant as his concu¬ 
bine. When she resisted, the leader took her for himself; still she resisted. 
She was caught trying to escape, and when she was unanimously condemned 
to death, the leader opposed the verdict. Finally, softened by a passion height¬ 
ened by her continued rejection, Kebinda, after a period of four months, 
allowed himself to be persuaded by Anne that she would become his bride 
if he married her in church. One night he left with her, and they arrived 
at the guardhouse on the Spanish border, where Anne, crying out, had him 
arrested. She was returned to Mr. Coupe, and the government gave her her 
freedom under the name Anne Fidelc 1 Faithful Anne], 

Although Kebinda was released by the Spaniards, he died shortly after¬ 
wards from the effects of a heart betrayed. 

In 177y, 1780, and 1781, the blacks continued their disturbances. There 
was even an expedition against those of Jacmcl at the end of March 1781, 
unsuccessful because the lack of water at Anses-a-PUrc forced the detach¬ 
ment to turn back. In October, new crimes required sending a regiment and 
some men from Port-au-Prince to Grand-Bois and a like amount to Fond- 
Vcrrcttcs, and twenty colored men of good will, at thirty sous a day, to a plot 
of land of Mme. de Liliancourt’s. Finally, in 1782, Mr, de Saint-Lary, a 
former surveyor and militia lieutenant, established since 1779 in Anse-4- 
Pitre where, far from any French dwelling and rather close to the poorly 
policed Spanish sector, it was necessary to be always on the alert, sought to 


contact any of the latter who had had dealings with the Maroons. In this he 
was successful, and, becoming friendly with them he confided to Diegue 
Felis, a free Spanish quadroon, a plan to get the blacks to turn themselves 
in and to form a dan under an agreement with the government. He also dis¬ 
cussed this with Antonio Felis, another free quadroon, and with Jean Lopez 
and Simon Silvere, both Spaniards and frontier maroons. The blacks re* 
sponded favorably. Mr. de Saint-Lary notified R Darve, the king’s adjutant 
for Jacmel, and Mr. de Vincent, second in command at Port-au-Prince. 
They advised him to continue the parleys, Mr. de Saint-Lary then had 
Diego Felis pass on some gifts to the blacks and tell them that if a dozen of 
them would come to Plaine du Trou-Jacob, five leagues from his place, he 
would come alone by sea. 

On the day indicated, fourteen Africans each wearing only loincloth and 
leather cartridge box, carrying firearms and machetes, approached from 
one side with Diegue Felis, and from the other side, came Messrs. Lopez 
and Silvere, both in uniform. Their leaders, Santyague, a Spanish black born 
in Banique and picked up by the maroons forty-five years ago, and Philippe, 
born in the woods, agreed that they would withdraw to Neyhe Parish, where 
they would be directed by three or four Spaniards, and that after a year 
they would all seek baptism in Neybe, prior to proceeding to their assigned 
area. Santyague indicated the number of Africans by counting out 137 
kernels of com; and, after distributing gifts of fabric and kerchiefs, Mr. dc 
Saint-Lary promised to return in two months. The administrators, to whom 
Mr. dc Saint-Lary reported this development, sent his account to the Port- 
au-Prince Chamber of Agriculture. At the same time, Diegue Felis came to 
Mr. Baudouin Desmarattes, saying that the negroes who intended to come 
in wanted to sec his son. The latter left on 8 April and arrived at Cap 
Mongon on the fifteenth, guided through the woods by Diegue Felis. They 
arrived at Nissao Point at 5:00 i».m. on the seventeenth, Diegue discharged 
a rifle shot, and two hours later thirty-two armed Africans arrived. They 
parleyed until the nineteenth; then the blacks escorted young Desmarattes to 
his boat* 

Informed of this latest representation by the blacks who were demanding 
freedom and asylum, the administrators wrote to support them in their de¬ 
mand. Consulted as I indicated above, the Port-au-Prince Chamber of Agri¬ 
culture decided on 2 May 1783 that these Africans ought to be given their 
freedom and welcomed, provided that they settled in the French sector 
However, negotiations wxre not brought to term, and one of the leaders 
came with tw r o of his men to Mr. Desmarattes in September 1784 to make 
known their impatience. In February 1785 Mr. de Bellccombe sent word to 
Diegue Felis to bring two of the leaders to Mr. Desmarattes, who then sent 
them to Port-au-Prince accompanied by his son. Acting in concert with the 
president of the Spanish sector, the government appointed Mr. Jean-Marie 
Desmarattes, Jr., to carry out the final arrangements. On 4 May, Don Iisidro 
de Peralta declared free those Spanish fugitives who would consent to come 
to live in the place designated for them, and, as his representative, named 
Don Louis de Chavez y Mendoza dean of the Royal Audicncia of Santo 

A Chronology of Mamma ge 333 

The two commissioners went to the Bahoruco Mountains and settled 
everything, submitting an official report at Neybe on 28 May. The blacks 
numbered 130, of whom 125 were either French or French descendants. It 
was agreed that although their chief, Santyague, was Spanish, he would 
return with the 125 to French soil, that all their developments would be 
destroyed. These blacks promised to pursue and to arrest maroons of both 
nations, at twelve gourdes each, according to the French-Spanish Treaty of 
5 June 1777. 

On 12 June, the two administrators of the colony ratified the agreement, 
decreed pardon and liberty for these blacks and a grant of eight months’ 
provisions to carry them until the land to be accorded them could produce 
a harvest. On 11 December 1785, a letter from the minister approved the 
operation noting, however, that an early peace was desired. But, in Feb¬ 
ruary 1786, the blacks rejected the proposition of the French and Spanish 
commissioners that they report to the area where they were expected, and 
it is believed that behind this development were a few Spaniards who habit¬ 
ually got their game and fish at practically no cost. A number of them had 
already come to Neybe to be baptized. The blacks had since, as agreed, 
kept their promise to put an end to raiding; but their proximity still fright¬ 
ened the planters away, and constabulary posts were reestablished. 

These are the factual details about these individuals who, for some time, 
laid waste a vast stretch of the countryside and among whom there were 
men sixty years old who "have never lived elsewhere than in these forests 
where they were born." The latter are by nature mistrustful, and it is dearly 
evident on their faces; fear moves them all. A whole volume could be writ¬ 
ten on what was said about their numbers and way of life. Through fear, 
their numbers were placed at eighteen hundred. Their real hideout is near 
Nisao in the mountains north of Azua, and it was there they retreated when 
they had to flee the Bahoruco Mountains, wffiere they joined forces for raids 
and were easily able to subsist on wild animals. Their outposts are ajoupas 
manned by two men who withdraw to another ajoupa and thus successively 
to the main body of troops. Their many sentinels are dogs, and there are 
Spaniards who even go into the French sector to buy them arms and ammu¬ 
nition. They engaged in pillaging and, if necessary, w^ouJd rcconnoiter at 
length to determine the propitious moment. Cruel when they wished to in¬ 
timidate or to avenge themselves, they carried off other blacks, whom they 
made veritable slaves. They accepted those who came to them voluntarily 
only after making certain they were not spies, and upon the slightest doubt 
had them put to death. One needs but cite the example of a mulatto woman 
of Mr. Fouquet’s living in Cul-de-Sac who managed to escape from them. 

After Mr, dc Saint-Vilnius expedition, these blacks, who moved about 
in fear of being surprised, were sometimes forced to live on leaves and wild 
fruits. The resultant severe dysentery and subsequent small pox carried off 
many of them. They even thought of turning themselves in, but Santyague, 
who had lived among them for some fifty years, dissuaded them. Taking 
advantage of their superstition, he assumed the role of father and directed 
them. He taught them to pray In Spanish and, in his hands, a rosary and a 
small cross were the arms with which he soon overwhelmed their minds. 


Who would have thought that this domination would persist so long as it has? 
Who would dare to contend that some successor to Santyaguc would not be 
more formidable than he? The government therefore should be determined 
to destroy this people if need be once and for all. But then it would have to 
be kept in mind that, whenever pursuit was discontinued, they grew in 
numbers- Troops regularly supplied with provisions and munitions would, 
unless confidence deserted them, certainly triumph over other forces lacking 
their fine advantages and whose wounded, for lack of aid, were condemned 
to death by the very climate. . , , 105 

Nevertheless, the Bahoruco Rebellion was not ended. Up until Inde¬ 
pendence, other leaders and other bands continued to establish formidable 
camps in the area. One cannot forget either Mamzelle, who became more 
and more aggressive in 1793, or the intractable Lamour Derance who in the 
Maniel hills was still, in 1803, defying the two thousand troops of the French 
general Kcrscveau. Wearing a belt of sheep-knuekle bones which protected 
him against bullets, he lived among a group of veteran Maroons, growing 
“immense fields of banana trees, yams and potatoes. 1 * In 1810 the commu¬ 
nity was commanded by Lafommc. In 1860 Maroons* were still being hun¬ 
ted in Bahoruco. 

Report ami Verification of Maroons Established in the Neybe Mountains 

We, Don Louis dc Chavez y Mendoza, Dean of the Santo-Domingo 
Court and Jean-Marie Desmarattcs, Dragoon Captain of the Saint-Domingue 
National Troops desirous of carrying out as fully as possible the orders 
given to us respectively by their Excellencies M. Guillaume Leonard de 
Beliccombe, Great-Cross of the Royal and Military Order of St, Louis, 
Brigadier in the King's Army, Govern or-General of the French Part of this 
Island; and Don Isidro de Peralta y Rosas Brigadier in the Armies of the 
King of Spain, Governor of the Spanish Part of the Island of Saint-Do¬ 
mingue, for the purpose of determining the number of Maroons in the Ba¬ 
horuco mountains, dependency of Neybe, and the numbers of those belong¬ 
ing respectively to the two governments cither because they had belonged 
to French or Spanish masters, or were descendants of slave parents of one 
or the other nation, and whom pursuant to the Project of Their Excellencies 
the respective Governors must return to the Sector whence they came, 
thence to enjoy civil status and to be trusted as other freedmen in conse¬ 
quence of the pardon granted them, we went first to Neybe where after 
having initially picked up the necessary information by questioning several 
of the Maroon Chiefs who earlier had been employed to persuade others to 
subject themselves to the sovereignty of the two Governors, we had ourselves 
taken to their area and as noted hereafter proceeded to verify the total 
number of maroons as being One Hundred and Thirty. We found only two 
from the Spanish creole sector of Banica to wit Julien, Dutch, age thirty, no 
wife nor children nor plantation and the said Santiague about fifty, married 

♦That is, rebels hostile to the Haitian regime of the time. 

A Chronology of Marronagc 335 

to one Ignace a mountain creole of about thirty with three children namely 
Marie, age fifteen, Jean, seven and Domertga, eight months, a family of 
five in addition to which Santiago has two fields planted in rice, corn, plan* 
tains, cane and other provisions* By their own version or according to their 
spokesmen the others listed below all belong to the French Part, as follows: 
Boiro and his wife both sixty, both mountain creoles. Three fields planted in 
rice, corn, plantains, cane and other provisions, Andr£, etc. . . , 

Following the list, the text resumes: 

This verification made in the best of faith and according to our above 
ranks as Commissioners of the two Governors was signed by us to provide 
all necessary sanction and thrust so that it may be appended to the Agree* 
ments relative to the return of said maroons into the Territory' of each of 
the powers to which they once belonged. 

Made in duplicate in French and Spanish . . * 


The above official report signed by us, Brigadier in the King’s Army, 
Grand Cross of the Military and Royal Order of Saint-Louis, Governor 
General of the French Leeward Islands in America. ... It is further agreed 
that the best interest of both governments require that the said St, Yago 
originally from the Spanish Sector and married to a fugitive black woman 
from the French area should remain with the negroes to be located on the 
territory of His Most Catholic Majesty; he will be exchanged for a black 
woman who will be sent to the Spanish Sector, or else compensation will be 
arranged and paid according to the Treaty. So that the said Agreement 
might provide both Governments every advantage we both intended wc 
stipulate and promise in good faith that upon demand by either of us, he 
shall be permitted to make the rounds of the respective possessions for 
which the above pardoned blacks will supply the men to pursue and arrest 
maroons of either nation who will be turned over respectively upon the 
new owners paying the captors the sum fixed by the Police Treaty between 
the two nations and further that since the former settlements of the above 
blacks could be a temptation to other slaves to abandon their masters to 
withdraw thereto and form a new clan of brigands, these developments are 
to be completely destroyed and with the consent of the Spanish Governor 
detachments of the same blacks will make frequent area inspections so that 
no camp may be set up there. 

Duplicate copy of this Agreement in French and Spanish is provided for 
possession and deposit in the archives of the two Governments from the 
date of execution. 

Act of Pardon for the Maroons in the Neybe Mountains 

The black maroons holed up in the Neybe Mountains having expressed a 
great desire to obtain Pardon for their desertion and to return under French 
authority and live under the protection of the Legal Authority of The 


Nation and to enjoy the same civil status enjoyed by the other Freedmen, 
We, Governor General and Intendant of the French Leeward Islands of 
America; Considering the advantages to be derived from the return of the 
said blacks to Government subjection and especially to service to which 
they can he put in pursuing and arresting blacks who in the future might 
try to withdraw into the mountains they previously occupied. By these pres¬ 
ents we have and do grant them general Amnesty for their desertion and 
that of their Relatives included in the verification Minutes signed on French 

On the designated lands to be given them along the Sale-Trou River each 
head of family will personally be given a free paper covering himself and 
all his family, and likewise each unmarried black mentioned in the above 
report; and in order to facilitate their return to French rule and to ease 
the means of their cultivating the land to be given them and to provide 
them an assured existence until their Plantations can sustain them, they will 
be given eight months provisions which they wilt pick up in Jacmel from the 
Commandant of Saltrou who will give them the necessary Passports. 

The present act of Pardon shall be registered with the Government 
Record Office for reference as needed. Done at Port-au-Prince under the 
seal of our arms and the countersign of our Secretaries 12 June 1785. 

Signed Bellecombe and Bongars 
By General Sen tour. 

By the Intendant* 

Signed Hebert 

The administrators then fixed at from ten to twelve carrcaux the land 
to be granted each family (15 September 1785). 100 

—In that same year, Julicn Raymond addressed his first statements to Mar¬ 
shall de Castries, claiming equality for freedmen. Not without some anxiety, 
Morange of the Foache household notes that 

assassinations by blacks are becoming more frequent* Three whites have 
just been murdered aboard a schooner. Yesterday a new black felled a 
youth of sixteen with blows of a coffee beater* Today another turned against 
a guard after having knifed a white* The Rehotte heirs had their jail torn 
down in the aided escape of a black wearing leg irons and an iron collar, . . . 
Daily the maroons increase in number, their boldness even more, 107 

7 786—Jerome Called Polecat Preaches Independence 

Surely it can be no surprise discovery that Marmelade was the target 
area for spreading the doctrine of mesmerism, shaped, as in Europe, accord¬ 
ing to the view of the propagators. These ideas arrived in Marmelade along 
with the forces of the Illuminants,* and the disgusting scenes and profane 

* They claimed to have celestial visions. The modern term is *TUuminati," 

A Chronology of Mammage 337 

abuses of the Convulsionnaires,* Swindling was the motive* By a decree of 
16 May 1786, the Superior Court of Cap had in vain threatened the fol¬ 
lowers of this dangerous doctrine; one Jerome called Poteau, a mulatto, 
assisted by the black Telemaque, nevertheless continued to ransom slaves by 
initiating them in chimeric mysteries during night assemblies held in distant 
locales and attracting immense crowds of these weak-minded, superstitious 
men* Superior to them by virtue of their great credulity, Jerome sold them 
maman-bila (little limestones) in sacks called fonda; black and red seeds 
from a type of acacia, which he called poto ; and especially sticks called 
mayo mho, into which mantan-bila powder was poured through a drilled 
hole; this gave them the advantage over some other black whose stick was 
not thus weighted. Jerome charged only one gourde for a poto, but a ma- 
yornbo cost four gourdes. He had assistants who gave instructions on their 
own, turning over half their take to him and all preaching independence. 
By a decree of the Saint-Domingue Court dated 13 November 1787, Jerome 
was condemned to the galleys for life. It was felt that his disciple Telemaque 
would be sufficiently punished by placing him next to Jerome while, wear¬ 
ing an iron collar, he was exhibited in the Clugny marketplace in Cap; and 
that further this would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of these practices in 
providing escape from the penalties which in justice brazen charlatanism 
ought alw r ays to suffer. 10 * 

The magistrate who wrote these lines did not perceive that these super¬ 
stitious practices inspired by exposure to mesmerism went far beyond the 
boundaries of what was considered to be the very limited mental capacity 
of the slaves. Or, perhaps, he did not care to perceive that they had come 
to form a concept of independence, perhaps collective, for the race as a 
whole. 10S> 

In 1786, Gressier de la Jalousi&re, from Marmelade, revealed there were 
frequent meetings of some two hundred slaves in Corail (a dependency of 
Marmelade) held “in slave houses on banana plantations and other secluded 
areas, always at night,” where they were instructed by the mulatto Jerome, 
who preached independence, at the same time distributing weighted sticks 
and cabalistic objects. The publication of this document is accompanied by 
the following commentary: “A great deal has been said of slave superstitions 
and of their secret organizations and the scheming and crimes for which 
they provided pretext (poisoning, infanticide, etc.) but this has been for the 
most pan only hearsay since whites were not admitted to these secret meet¬ 
ings and legal documentation was usually held secret or destroyed. . « The 
existence of a considerable undercurrent of such exhortations and intrigues 
has been suspected, but it would be interesting to search out and discover 
them, from the time of the first maroons up to the Revolution; might Polydor 
and Macandal have been precursors to Boukman and Romaine la Proph- 
6tesse? Were they in a line of succession? Surely, the answers to this question 
would explain many things. 10 

* These were fanatics who experienced or pretended to experience nervous convulsions 
before the tomb of the Paris deacon. 


1787 — Taya Lays Waste Two Parishes 

Gilot, the Maroon nicknamed Yaya, a plunderer in the parishes of Trou 
and Terrier Rouge, was arrested and condemned to death in September 
1787. Saint-Mery accused him of having been “a bloody brigand*’* 

1788 — More Poison 

In a 1788 memorandum by Nicolas le Jeunc, this notoriously cruel colo¬ 
nist revealed that 

His father had lost through poisoning four hundred slaves in twenty-five 
years and fifty-two in just six months and that in less than two years he 
had lost forty-seven blacks and thirty mules. 111 

1789 — Increasingly the Africans Talk about Liberty 

The colored men claimed their rights. Disunited, the colonials demanded 
political autonomy and the right to manage Samt-Domingue as they saw fit. 
There was a general malaise. Under cover of these troubles the slaves con¬ 
tinued their move. From a host of slave night meetings in the woods, ideas 
about liberty were widely disseminated. Maroon groups headed by leaders 
became more numerous. Already the most daring of these chieftains were 
preparing the revolution and were known by name: Hyacinthe, Halaou, 
Caiman, Lamour Deranee, Arm and Berault, Martial Lemerlc, Candi, Pierrot, 
Macaya, Pierre Michel, Dieudonne, Lafortune, Pompee, Romaine La 
Prophetcssc. Barth£lemy, Lafrance, Laplume. 

These Maroon bands were reported at Arcahaic, Cul-de-Sac, Leogane 
and at Jacmel, at Trou Caiman, laMotte, and Plymouth. From 1786 Voodoo 
continued to be the Maroons* most effective arm for increasing desertions 
and the struggle against slavery. Still another greatly alarmed colonist wrote: 

Everybody has resolved to keep armed at home and to join in patrolling 
the roads and large savannas. These precautions seem to hold off the blacks, 
but there is a work slowdown and clearly something is hatching that will 
break out in a plantation mutiny: this will be the signal to all the others. 113 

Roger Massio reported the other contemporary account: 

At present we are most preoccupied with the threats of a revolt * , * 
our slaves have already formed mobs In one part of the colony, threatening 
to destroy every white and to take over the Island . . . we are most always 
under arms . . . evenings between nine and ten we are all to horse and 
armed with gun and bayonet, cartridge pouch with twenty to thirty car¬ 
tridges, saber and pistol; we take off after assembly to patrol in every direc¬ 
tion to prevent blacks from assembling, and we visit every plantation to 

A Chronology of Marronage 339 

search every slave hut to sec if they are armed and we seize all machetes and 

arms. , * , 113 

1790 — Oge and Chavannes 

The freedmen, arms in hand, claim their rights* The revolt is put down 
by fifteen hundred soldiers. Oge and Chavannes, martyrs of the freedmen’s 
struggle for equality, were executed. Though this uprising had no interest for 
the slaves, it did, however, highlight the unrest and increase a state of almost 
insupportable tension. As is known, the Freedmen’s Revolt, even if it re¬ 
mained the most courageous and determined phase of the battles for equality, 
was to fail in a setback resulting from the egoism of their objectives. The 
blacks were happy about this new breach that shook the colonial regime, 
thus serving the cause of liberty. The repercussions of the Oge-Chavannes 
revolt were a new factor in the general unrest. Henceforth, anxious to carve 
out a similar path, the slaves would give effective if not enthusiastic support 
instead of the reported abstention held to in spite of overtures by the freed¬ 
men. Actually 250 slaves had responded to the call, but had been rejected 
by Oge, who disagreed with Chavannes on the value of this assistance. What¬ 
ever the case, during the Oge affair, blacks in the same aggressive spirit held 
assemblies in Plaine des Cayes and on the Fabre plantation in Port-Salut. 

1791 — Boukman Organizes the General Slave Revolt in the North 

The slaves revolted in Cul-dc-Sac, Croix dcs Bouquets, and Port-au- 
Prince in support of the freedmen. Together, in a battle on the Plantation 
Peinier, they routed the whites. They would be among the 243-300 blacks 
and twenty-three mulatto slaves rewarded by being drowned under cover of 
night in the Mole Saint-Nicolas roadstead, a horrible crime. The freedmen 
were accused of complicity in this shameful massacre along with the whites 
with whom from then on they allied themselves, at least within the fragile 
framework of the Concordats. The situation developed remarkably. In a 
variety of ways the agitation reached the southern and western parishes. Peo¬ 
ple in the North lived in great anxiety. At Limbe, especially, the revolt 
rumbled. It was a powder barrel ready to explode at the first spark. It was 
then that the Maroon leader Boukman Dutty 114 made his appearance. He 
had come from Jamaica, having been sold in contraband by an English 
slaver. He was equally endowed with courage, boldness, and physical 
strength. In addition to an already imposing stature and power of domination 
this eolussus wielded the power conferred on him by the halo of Voodoo 
priesthood. He had long studied colonial life and had risen to the position 
of driver, then coachman at Plantation Clement. His incessartt traveling 
about as coachman doubtlessly enabled him to establish a network of contacts 
in the various work gangs and frequent communications with slaves and 
commanders on neighboring plantations, 


Contemporary documents shedding light on Boukman’s extraordinary 
personality are few. Little is known about his slave life. Was he with another 
Samt-Damingue master before coming to Mr* Clement’s work gang? Was he 
the giant, as always depicted in the one and only version repeated over and 
over again? These questions come to mind upon reading the following run¬ 
away slave notice in the Affiches Amerieaines of 5 October 1779. It is one of 
the rare times that a Maroon was designated by the name Bouquemen, Other 
details, his experience with arms, his fierce demeanor, his character as 
dangerous subject whom it is important to arrest” all suggest this could have 
been Bern km an in his long-ago first days as a Maroon: 

Runaway slaves: Three blacks named Bouquemen, a hunter, Jean-Jacques a 
creole coachman unbranded, and David a Guinea Negro branded X, have 
gone maroon from the plantation of Mr. Cailleau the elder and Mme, the 
Widow Dorlic at Maribaroux, the first two forty and forty-two years old 
are most dangerous and important to arrest, the first is five feet three, round- 
faced with small eyes and a fierce aspect, the coachman is five feet four, 
deep eyes, wide nostrils. . * * This latter escaped with a dw’arf, a chain and 
some thumbscrews. If found please have them arrested and taken to the 
nearest jail under all possible security and notify Mr. Dorlic at Maribaroux. 

Was this Bouquemen recaptured and sold to another owner, perhaps Mr. 
Clement? In any case we note that Mr. Dorlic did not continue the search 
for him. For in the 13 March Gazette of 1781 this same colonist mentioned 
only the slave Jean-Jacques, whose physical description he repeated, men¬ 
tioning him as *a very dangerous subject at whatever plantation he frequents, 
he has been especially helped by the Maribaroux blacks; escaped almost ten 
months ago, it is important to ali that he be picked up.” The name Boukman 
(Toussaint-Louverture also writes it as Bouquemen) is linked to the cere¬ 
mony at Bois Caiman where, under the Voodoo sign, the sacred Pact of the 
General Slave Revolt was sealed. The best invocation of this ceremony is the 
one taught many of us at our school benches 115 and completed by Pauleus 
Sannon: llfl 

He exercised over all the slaves who came near him an inexplicable influ¬ 
ence. In order to wash away all hesitation and to secure absolute devotion 
he brought together on the night of 14 August 1791 a great number of 
slaves in a glade in Bois Caiman near Morne-Rouge. 117 They were all 
assembled when a storm broke. Jagged lightning in blinding flashes illumi¬ 
nated a sky of low and somber clouds. In seconds a torrential rain floods 
the soil while under repeated assaults by a furious wind the forest trees 
twist and weep and their largest branches, violently ripped off, fall noisily 
away. In the center of this impressive setting those present, transfixed, gripped 
by an inspired dread see an old dark woman arise. Her body quivers in 
lengthy spasms; she sings, pirouettes and brandishes a large cutlass overhead. 
An even greater immobility, the shallow scarcely audible breathing, the 

A Chronology of Marronage 341 

burning eyes fixed on the black woman soon indicate that the spectators are 
spellbound* Then a black pig is brought forward, its squeals lost in the raging 
of the storm* With a swift stroke the inspired priestess plunges her cutlass 
into the animal's throat, * . . The hot, spurting blood is caught and passed 
around among the slaves; they all sip of it, all swearing to carry out Bouk- 
man’s orders. The old woman of the strange eyes and shaggy hair invokes 
the gods of the ancestors while chanting mysterious words in African dialect. 
Suddenly Boukman stands up and in an inspired voice cries out, “God who 
made the sun that shines on us from above, who makes the sea to rage and 
the thunder roll, this same great God from his hiding place on a cloud, hear 
me, all of you, is looking down upon us. He sees what the whites are doing. 
The God of the whites asks for crime; ours desires only blessings. But this 
God who is so good directs you to vengeance! He will direct our arms, he 
will help us. Cast aside the image of the God of the whites who thirsts for 
our tears and pay heed to the voice of liberty speaking to our hearts, , . 
(Translation from the much more moving Creole text) 11 ® 

The night of 16 August, Plantation Chabaud burned* The slave Des- 
grieux, a driver, was arrested and declared that “all the drivers, coachmen, 
domestics and trusted slaves of neighboring plantations and adjacent districts 
have conspired to burn the plantations and kill the whites*” Some leaders 
were arrested at the Flaville and Desgrieux plantations, and the slave Paul 
was taken at Plantation Bfin, On the night of 21 August 1791 upon the 
agreed signal, the slaves on plantations Noe, Clement, Flaville, Gall if ct, and 
Turpin revolted and moved on to Limbe. Acul was in flames* Limbe was a 
heap of ruins* La Plaine du Nord, Petite Ansc, Quartier Morin and Limonade 
were ravaged, and shortly afterwards it was the turn of Grande Riviere, Saint- 
Suzanne, Dondon, Marmelade, Piaisance and Port-Margot. Two hundred 
sugar and eighteen hundred coffee mills were destroyed, A thousand whites 
were strangled. The northern parishes were 


* , , a spectacle of indescribable horror. Everything is aflame. Rising to dizzy 
heights, enormous smoke spirals obscure the entire horizon* According to 
the intermittent action of the winds the dark columns twist and lower only 
to climb again even higher at intervals allowing the reddening glare of the 
devastating flames to break through* Dismayed and stunned we watch 
from Cap the ravages of the disaster. Under a low sky dark and enflamed, 
night and day are confounded* A veritable rain of fire, caused by an ava¬ 
lanche of kindled straw torn from the caneficlds and of all sorts of small 
things, from sparkling debris borne on the air, falls upon the city, even on 
ships in the roads*. * * 118 

For two months the slaves grouped in small bands continued their in¬ 
cursions, massacres and burnings, returning at night to the mountain summits, 
keeping on the alert and decimating the colonial forces. In November 1791 
Boukman, the leader of the revolt, was killed by a shot from the pistol of an 


officer, Mr. Michel. Here is (he true account of Boukman’s death as it was 
told, without embellishment by the colonel of the Cap Regiment: 120 

End of Mr. dc Cambeforfs correspondence with Mr. Blanchelande during 
his campaign in Piaine dc 1'AcuL 

7 November 1791 

I continued to charge the rebels on the road and in the cancfields and, with 
my cavalry, captured two of their cannon and a white man who was operat¬ 
ing them. Having been shown an entrance gate to a canefieid, I went in 
quickly accompanied by your nephew, Mr. Simon, and some twenty dragoons, 
alt of us belly to ground: With firearms and sabers we kilted about thirty, 
among them Bookman; he was carrying a double-barreled gun which he 
discharged at me and Mr. Dubinsson. It was Mr Michel, an officer of ex¬ 
ceptional valor who killed him with a pistol shot. I myself killed two of 
them. Bookman's gun belonged to his late master, Mr. Clement, whom he 
had murdered. He was also carrying a brace of excellent pistols. The bri¬ 
gands were completely routed, and 1 believe that a very great number of 
them were killed. After advancing as far as the Dulhil plantation, I captured 
another cannon, a piece of eight, and a mortar, twenty pounds of powder, 
and a quantity of bullets. Finally, night falling, I pulled in my forces and 
returned to camp around seven o'clock. In this action our casualties were 
only one man killed and three wounded. One cannot overemphasize the 
advantage gained by our having killed Bookman. The event has caused such 
a great sensation in camp (where there had been some concern for me when 
I opened the attack on the brigands) that my section was moved to an 
excess of joy and extravagant homage to me, all of which I could not have 
expected. It was quite apparent that Bookman was the leader who had the 
greatest influence over the minds of the blacks; it is my fervent hope that 
he will not be replaceable, It is equally clear he had planned to attack my 
camp last night with a large force and his five cannon; he would not have 
taken us but he could have severely damaged us. My victory yesterday led 
me to feel that Coupe-a-David lost with Boukman all of its strength. This 
consideration with that of troop fatigue did not at all outweigh the commit¬ 
ment 1 had made with Mr. Drosain to attack this cut. At daybreak today I 
carried out my plan of attack, setting up with 160 men three ambush points 
past which the brigands would have to make their retreat, and sending a 
column around the flanks of La Coupe, one by the Dupathy road, the other 
by the Flaiville road, emplacing two cannon brought up by the cavalry on 
the main road at the end of La Coupe . The result of my sortie was the cap¬ 
ture of this bandit, a most interesting chieftain in terms of the way he talks 
about their operation. All of what they considered to be their fighting force 
had come down yesterday to attack us, and considering they were defeated 
it is not very surprising that I found the post almost abandoned. They had 
removed the cannon prior to yesterday. I destroyed all their a jo upas and the 
slave housing on neighboring plantations; then I moved on the Hourquebie, 
Balanson, Desmangles and Capdcville plantations where they had encamp¬ 
ments: I routed them and burned their hideouts. Scarcely was I atop Coupe- 

A Chronology of Marronage 343 

a-David than some free colored women and a great number of slave women 
came forward seeking my protection. I collected 114 of them whom I had 
taken to my camp by way of Coupe. 

P.S. 1 forgot to tdl you about a valiant mulatto who was always at Bouk- 
man's side; he fought like a lion against three of my dragoons before 
succumbing. 1 ' 11 

Boukman’s head, along with a placard stating “The head of Bookman, 
leader of the rebels/’ was exhibited on a public square in Cap. According to a 
witness, “never did a death head conserve so much expression. The open, 
still-glistening eyes seemed to be giving his troops the signal for a mas¬ 
sacre/’ 1 ” 

With Boukman dead, new leaders, who previously had shared with him 
the organization of the general revolt, emerged from the resistance. Again 
in November, all Plaine du Cul-de-Sac w r as in arms, and the freedmen were 
laying siege to Port-au-Prince. The South, also, had risen, and, in the North, 
where, as from some great furnace, the reddening flames still rose and were 
reflected on clouds as far away as the Bermudas, the terror was far from 
abatement. “At the crackling sounds of woods aflame, and with the raucous, 
prolonged tones of the sad-sounding lambis,” the anxiety increased. At 
Cap, fifteen hangmen and three gibbets were kept constantly busy. Hun¬ 
dreds of slaves and freedmen were massacred before the colonists could pull 
themselves together and organize the struggle. 

It was known that colored men were joined with the rebels and that 
Spaniards were secretly assisting by supplying them arms and munitions. The 
blacks still held the countryside, and it appeared that, despite combat losses, 
they were increasing in numbers. Gradually they acquired military* skills and 
the rudiments o£ tactics. At first they were so ignorant they did not know 
how to use the cannon they captured, and loaded them by putting the can¬ 
nonball in the far end of the piece and then the powder. . , , In order to get 
provisions and munitions the insurgents turned over to the Spaniards the 
furniture pillaged from plantations, animals they appropriated and sold, and 
black children snatched from the plantations. On both sides the war became 
atrocious. The insurrection did not lose ground. Over and over again pushed 
back to the hills, the Negroes always returned to the plain. De Blanche! ande 
determined to take the offensive, , , . Plaisance Parish was swept away, and 
Acul was taken. Colonel Touzard debarked at Port Margot and recaptured 
Limhe. 1 ” 

In November, Toussaim-Louvcrture, who had worked in the background 
as an organizer of the revolt, entered the scene and joined with Jean-Francois 
and Jcannot, chiefs in Biassou’s band. Soon, by virtue of his genius, he would 
surge to the fore and, alone, would assume the overall direction of the revolt, 
now the real Revolution of Saint-Domingue. Even prior to opening up on 
the great revolt, the year 1791 had been crammed with events. In February 


there had been the torture and execution of Oge and Chavannes sent back 
from Spanish territory on 29 December. The preceding month, the presence 
of masked brigands had been reported, and the authorities decreed: “De¬ 
sirous of anticipating any circumstance that might disturb the public tran- 
quality and of increasing, even prodigally, police means for maintaining it: 
we now forbid ail persons of whatever status to wear masks in the streets of 
city or town or on the colony’s main roads or at public balls/' 124 Over the 
following months the press published numerous stolen pistol ads. 

At Plantation Chaperon de la Taste, behind the Peres de THopital, Jean- 
Baptiste Cap, “leader of the almost general revolt of his work gang,” was 
arrested. In October, “apprised that the Spaniards are trafficking in gun¬ 
powder which they bring in ouf cities then sell to the rebels,” the Provincial 
Assembly of the North decreed that the Provincial Assembly as soon as pos¬ 
sible should have a search made of every house barring none in the city of 
Cap and remove to deposit in the king’s magazines all powder thus found. 125 
At the same time, threats and underhanded deals were attempted in an 
effort to end the revolt. Alliances and bloody clashes between whites and 
freedmen alternate. Camped at Plantation Gallifet, the maroon “generals and 
chieftains” sent Blanchclande the historic proclamation which ended with 
the defiant “We shall never have any other motto: Liberty or Death!” 

1792—The Maroon War 

In the bands, new leaders arose, the best known of whom were Jeannot 
Bullet, Jean-Frangois Papillon, Georges Biassou, Toussaint Breda, and Paul 
Biin, killed because he lacked firmness; Romaine Riviere called the Proph¬ 
etess, Pom pee Benjamin, Barthelemy, Bebe Coutard, Diedonne, Carreau, 
Despinville, Jean Pineau, Michant, Thomas, Elie, Noel, Le Sec, Lefevre, 
Halaou, Courlonge, Guiambois, Candi, Pierrot, Hyacinthe, only twenty-two, 
Macaya, Jean Kina, Belair. . . . 

From the brains of the insurrection down to the last confused slave all were 
bent on resistance, seeing that an army was not crushing them to death and 
could not prevent them from remaining masters of the mountains whence 
they could always at will make sorties to burn and kill on the plains. 126 

Voodoo played a part. According to Colonel Malenfant: 

In February 1792 we marched to attack a camp of blacks at Fond Parisien 
in Plaine du CuI-de-Sac. The army was composed of two thousand infantry 
and four hundred colonial dragoons. On approaching the camp we were 
astonished to see stuck in the ground along the route large perches on which 
a variety of dead birds had been affixed. , . . On the road at intervals there 
were cut up birds surrounded by stones artistically arranged, also a dozen 
broken eggs surrounded by large circles in zigzag. . , . After a quarter of an 
hour's march I saw the camp which was dotted with ajoupas ranged like 

A Chronology of Marronage 345 

army tents. What was our surprise to see black males leaping about and 
more than two hundred women dancing and singing in all security, . . , The 
Voodoo high priestess had not lied. , * , She was a very beautiful black 
woman, well dressed. Had 1 not been hunting down the blacks, I would 
not have allowed her to be killed, at least not without extracting from her a 
great deal of information about her activities. I questioned several women 
in detail; some of them, from the little Gouraud plantation in Ponds Pari¬ 
sian knew me; they could not understand how we were able to pass through 
the obstacles the grand mistress of Voodoo had strewn in our way, It was 
due to the assurance this woman had given them that they so confidently 
had taken to dancing. . , , The priestess w p as a beautiful creole black from 
the des Boynes plantation. * , , In the Sainte-Suzanne Mountains we captured 
an Arada woman. She was of the Voodoo cult. She was taken to Cap; she 
was questioned, but she spoke no Creole, , . , Both the men and women 
frankly said that there could be no human povver over her. , , , At Gouraud 
there was a Voodoo high priestess and a black high priest, I learned this from 
a woman initiate. There was a password but she would never give it to me: 
she claimed the women did not know it. She gave me the hand recognition 
sign: it was somewhat similar to that of the Masons. Very few creoles are 
initiated, only the children of Voodoo chiefs. She told me this as a secret, 
assuring me , * . I would be killed or poisoned if 1 tried to penetrate the 
great mystery of the sect. 127 

Another account not to be doubted is this one by a nun of the Commu¬ 
nity of the Daughters of Our Lady of Cup Frangais: 

A former pupil (of the nun’s order at Cap) later known to history as Prin¬ 
cess Amethyste, the leader of a company of Amazons, was initiated into 
the Gioux or Voodoo sect, a sort of religious and dancing Masonry brought 
to Saint-Domingue by the Aradas, and brought into the sect a large number 
of her companions. The class regents used to note a certain agitation which 
would increase particularly after this round which they had adopted to the 
exclusion of all others: 

Eh! eh! Bomba eh! eh! 

Canga bafio te 

Canga mousse dele 

Canga do ki la 

Canga li 

We don’t know if this is Senegalese or Yolof, Arada or Congo; we do know 
. , . these words are a sacramental Voodoo hymn. One evening the negresses 
left the building accompanied by a large number of female companions and 
went out of town into the night, singing these words incomprehensible to the 
whites. Now, however, the attention of the nuns had been piqued; for some 
time the negresses had adopted an almost uniform dress, around their bodies 
wearing kerchiefs in which the color red dominated; they wore sandals. At 
night these words foreign to the whites could be heard in ehant now in 


single voice again in chorus. The Voodoo king had just declared war on the 
colonials, and, diadem circling his forehead, and accompanied by the queen 
dressed in a red scarf, and agitating the little bells decorating a box contain¬ 
ing a snake, they were marching to the assault of the colony’s cities. . . 1 hey 
came to lay siege to Cap-Frangais. By the light of large braziers which 
notched the silhouettes of the magnificent rounds the nuns from the win¬ 
dows of their monastery which overlooked countryside and city were able 
to see the nude black women of the sect dancing to the sad sound of tam¬ 
bourines and lambis alternating with the shrieks of the sacrificial vic¬ 
tims. . * A 2S 

In conclusion here is historian Thomas Madiou’s account of the very 
definite role of Voodoo in the Maroon wars, the battle for liberty: 

At their head, the slaves place Jean-Frangois whose lieutenants were Bouk- 
man and Flavillc. They led them to victory to the sound of African music 
which everywhere spread terror. All of Plaine du Nord was put to fire and 
blood. . . . With the bands organizing, Jean-Frangois took the title of Grand 
Admiral of France and General-in-Chief and his lieutenant, Biassou, that of 
Vice-Roy of the conquered country. They dominated these bands composed 
of Congos, Mandingans, Ibos, Senegalese by both superior intelligence and 
superstition. . . * Biassou surrounded himself with sorcerers and magicians, 
who composed his staff. His tent was filled . . . with objects symbolic of 
certain African superstitions. ... At night great fires were kept burning in 
his camp; naked women performed horrible dances of frightening contortions 
around these fires, singing words known only in the African deserts. When 
exaltation had reached its zenith, Biassou, followed by his sorcerers, stood 
before the crowd and cried forth he was inspired by the spirit of God; he 
told the Africans they would be transformed to life in their old tribes in 
Africa if they fell in combat. Then in prolonged echoes their frightful cries 
carried through the distant woods; the chanting and the somber drums 
began again, and, exploiting these moments of exaltation, Biassou would 
urge his bands against the enemy, surprising them in the dead of night, 
Jeannot proclaimed himself the avenger of Ogc and Chnvannes. He com¬ 
manded under Jean-Frangois. Like Biassou he was influenced by sor¬ 
cerers. , , . 

The Cul-de-Sac insurgents (an army of two thousand maroons) had at 
their head an African of great height and Herculean strength. He ruled by 
superstition, always carrying under his arm a large white cock which, he 
pretended, transmitted to him orders from heaven. He marched preceded by 
the music of drums, lambis, trumpets, and sorcerers, or papas, who chanted 
that he was invulnerable, that the enemy’s cannon were only bamboo, pow¬ 
der, and dust. His guard carried long cowtails, which they claimed deflected 
bullets. . . . The Leogane quarter was laid waste by Romaine Riviere, who 
had asumed the title of prophet, calling himself the godson of the Virgin 
Mary. He signed himself Romaine the Frophesier, By superstition he dom¬ 
inated the slave bands he had raised in the mountains. He said Mass, sub- 

A Chronology of Mamma ge 347 

jccted whites to all sorts of tortures, and pretended this was ordered by the 
Virgin. 13 ® 

In the Paris National Archives under the call numbers DXXV 118 there 
is a dossier containing letters, passes, and considerable documentation on 
Maroon chiefs. Jean-Frangois was arrogant, proud, intelligent, and possessed 
a fine physique; he loved ostentation and was very brave. His general’s or 
'‘grand admiral's” uniform was covered with decorations, gold braid, and 
stripes. It was in this sumptuous uniform that “for the purpose of inspiring 
respect in the troops, he would move among the ranks, whether mounted on 
a richly bedecked horse or in a carriage drawn by four horses, sometimes 
white, sometimes black,” 

In spite of a ferocious spirit of independence he was the least cruel of 
the Maroon leaders. He had attached to his army an almoner. Father Sulpiee, 
whom he personally had saved from massacre and who in return had linked 
his destiny with that of the rebels, sharing the dangerous and fatiguing camp 
life. Like most of these authoritarian, unscrupulous leaders, he was far from 
being a saint. He did not hesitate to barter slaves captured in raids for 
guns, powder and cannon supplied by the Spanish. Biassou was rough-hewn, 
implacable, and excessively cruel, a leader thirsty for vengeance, murdering, 
and pillaging. Anger bottled up for two hundred years was now about to 
burst forth in reprisals on the fertile plains of the North. Romainc Riviere 
the Prophcsier had set up his headquarters in Trou-Coffi in the Leoganc 
area. Apparently he had lived his marronage in the Spanish sector. ... In 
the Paris dossiers of his advisor, Abbe Ouviere, 130 there are numerous letters 
by the hand of Romainc who, like Jean-Frangois, could read and write. Like 
Macaya, Pierrot had learned to read and write in Saint-Domingue, He was 
Senegalese and Macaya, a Congo, The Maroon war, with liberty its objective, 
was carried on under the direction of these chiefs, to the sound of the Iambi. 
The Saint-Domingue press published accounts of the almost daily attacks 
against these camps in which the blacks were holed up. These were not 
always, for the whites, victory bulletins since the ranks of the slave bands 
were swelled constantly by deserters and the situation daily became more 

In order to get the insurgent slaves in the West back on the plantations a 
means was employed which, although very helpful for the women, provided 
a very dangerous example for every black who knew how to combine ideas, 
Croix de Bouquets Parish awarded a hundred, and Arcahaie parish one 
hundred and forty-four manumissions. 

Clearly, the general revolt in the North continued to spread. Like the 
North, the West was in arms. Here and there liberty was carved out in small 
segments. The Maroons did not disdain these miniscule victories, keeping 


always in view the one objective of the revolution: liberty for all. At Grande 
Anse, Jean Kina heading an armed band daily consolidated the resistance. 

The Decree of 4 April conferred on colored people—under the old 
regime free mulattoes and free blacks were so designated—full citizenship 
with voting privileges and eligibility for all functions. The battle for equality 
was won in this year of 1792, at the same time providing notice of the march 
toward liberty, 

Toussaint Breda was busy organizing the final phase. Phillibert Francois 
Rouxel de Blanchelande, King’s Brigadier, lieutenant to the Governor Gen- 
era! of the Leeward Islands of America, stepped up his attacks and, at the 
same time, the bargaining and appeals to the slaves in arms. In July 1792, he 
addressed the Maroons of Anglais Parish in these words: 

From Saint-Marc to this point I have restored peace and order; I have 
made the workers return to their masters; everywhere the people have been 
welcomed by their slaves as a father by his children; wherever I have ap¬ 
peared work was resumed. Staves, you whom the perverse and the wicked 
have led into insurrection against your masters, return to your labors, place 
yourselves again at the feet of those who always served you as fathers. They 
have decided to forgive you everything and to forget; I personally guarantee 
you this pardon and you can take my sacred w'ord for it as the King's 
representative. . . , 131 

This verbal enthusiasm beggared reality. At the Platons Pass in the Hotte 
hills, rebels had just decimated three columns of fifteen hundred men dis¬ 
persed helter-skelter by a hail of bullets, arrows, ambushes, and by sections 
of rock rolling down the mountains. Six thousand men arrived from Europe, 
eighteen hundred from Martinique. Two months later, “half of these troops 
were already cut down/* 1 ** It was a new kind of warfare these soldiers from 
the Metropolc had to face. 

It was a war of elusive cohorts. A war against fanaticized blacks who 
advanced dancing and singing in the face of death. For every defeated band 
twenty others unexpectedly sprang up, surging through the night and blend¬ 
ing with it in a tangle of shadows. 

And these unconquerable masses poured down the mountainsides in rav¬ 
aging torrents and with the day receded into inaccessible gorges. At daybreak 
the Iambi heralded new and incessant dangers. The struggle to uncover hiding 
places and to attack the innumerable Maroon camps becomes exhausting. 
The following document gives some idea of rebel slave tactics and the daily 
clashes between Maroons and armed colonials. It is about a sudden raid 
attempted against Maroon chief Noel’s band, in Cap Parish: 

Advised in a letter from citizen Pommerois, post commander at Perrier that 
Noel Arthaut had come to his master's plantation I went there with twenty 
mounted men, some fifty infantrymen from the Cap regiment and a four- 

A Chronology of Marronagc 349 

pounder; having found not a single rebel there, I marched to Plantation 
Druneau where without a single shot J arrested a Spanish mulatto armed with 
machete and dagger, three blacks whom 1 had tied up and five or six old men 
I sent to my infantry* I questioned the blacks and the mulatto who told me 
that Noel had arrived yesterday evening with many hands and was among 
some ajoupas deep in the woods of Plantation Dor lie, but that in order to get 
there it would be necessary to cross very extensive woods, a frightful road 
and waist-deep water* This story did not frighten me and I marched ahead 
disposing my troops accordingly; 1 was w f dl guided by one of the blacks whom 
I mentioned to you. After a two-hour march I reached Noel's lair; we saw 
these wretched brigands; we laid down fire on them; they began to cry out: 
"To battle!' 1 I saw this Noel, not fifteen feet from me; were it not for an 
accursed lagoon I could have taken him. They returned a well-directed fire; 
we then closed on them, and the brigands barely had time to jump into the 
Massacre River only a few steps from their lair; we killed several of them, 
and the river being very deep where they tried to cross many drowned and 
others were killed in the water. We lost only one man and captured a dozen 
good guns, pistols, sabers* powder sacks, fine powder and twenty mules and 
horse all saddled and bridled* Noel's mount is in my possession. . * . The elder 
Beaulieu brought Noel down with his first shot; he dropped his arms and 
managed to throw himself in the river. I believe he was wounded; I also have 
Noel's gold-braided blue cloth coat which he dropped and which served to 
protect me against the cold. That, my general, is a rough account of my 
expedition. 131 

Parallel with and sometimes bound up with it, the armed uprising of 
the freedmen continued. The bloody episodes in the West and the phases of 
the merciless struggle with pen and gun waged so courageously by the free 
blacks and mulattocs arc well known; as are some of their names; 

Pierre Pinchinat, Lubin, Golard, Louise Ratcau, Louis-Jacques Beauvais. 
Alexandre Petion; Carreaux, Ferdinand Deslandes, Gedcon Jourdain, 
Gerin, Baptiste Marine, Eliacin Dubose, Dcsmarets; Poisson, Renaud, Mmc, 
Beauge, Lambert Daguin* Rigaud; Pierre Coustard, Marc Borno, Obran, 
Doyon, Joseph Labastille, Lafontant, Faubcrt Larose, Morisset, Tessier; 
Losicr, Cambe, Fouguy, Baptiste Boye, Borgella, Lys, Pupuche, Pierre 
Michel, Nau* Ardouin, Labec, Bayard, Vessiere, Alexis Ignace, Jean-Pierre 
Singla, Cameau, Bourry, Dcgand, Chanlatte, Barbancourt; Drouillard, Ster¬ 
ling, Perodin, Paul, Jolly, Leopard, Savary, Duda, Pinson* Perisse, Coquille, 
Toussaint Boufflet, Pierre Thimot^, Jean-Louis Francois (son of Alexis 
Francois*) and de tatin (both free blacks), Nicolas GefFrard (born on 
Plantation Perigny of a mulatto father and Julie Coudro (Senegalese in or¬ 
igin), Jean-Louis Rebecca—one of whose sisters w'as an albino—(born to a 
free family of Port-de-Paix)* . . P Two Caycs newspapers, UObservQteur 
Colonial and La Gazette des Cayes echoed the furious battles desolating the 
South* Their accounts and the military communiques make it possible to 


follow step by step the trail of blood bespattering every parish* “in murders* 
massacres, burning and pillaging. . * ” This followed the usual tactics of 
armed maroons and indicated* it will be seen, that mulattoes and free blacks 
were themselves now bringing to the struggle the terror inspired by supersti¬ 
tious practices. 

Cayes, January 1 1 1793 

All the talk is about thefts* plundering and murders committed the last 
eight days by free colored men in various parts of the Province, 134 

Plymouth, January 5 

Messrs, Cazenavc* Molly and Marie* residents of this quarter* inform us 
they were obliged to arm themselves and fight several engagements against 
the colored men and the slaves they had roused. They kilted sixty of them* 
after which they made a sweep of the area and picked up all the blacks scat¬ 
tered in the woods. .. 

Again, January 5, from Cayes 

The Provincial Assembly of the South plans measures to protect unfor¬ 
tunates fleeing death and horrors worse than death* who escape through 
leaping flames who* safe from the deadly fire . . , daily come through to 
Cayes. , . , The killings in this Plain are continuing. Hardly a day that men 
of color do not commit several, ... At Plantation Magon du Har they held 
up Mr, Caumont and took his blood* mixed it with rum* and dared to guzzle 
this horrible drink. Almost all the white proprietors and managers have 
withdrawn to the city. A boat from the Fer coast arrived with a hundred 
people, men* women and children. 

Plymouth, January 8 

The mulattoes have renewed the fight . . . the whites killed more than a 
hundred of these brigands. 

From Cayes 

The United Army set out anew on the fifth of this month. The city’s 
fortifications are under command of Mr, Martincau* chief engineer for the 
Southern Part, 

January IS, From Jeremle 

The Army seized a Bordeaux vessel carrying a cargo of shoes hiding six 
hundred guns* fifty pistols and as many sabers. 

Port a Piment, Tuesday the 10th 

There was an attack by two squadrons of mounted mulattoes. Masters of 

A Chronology of Marronage 351 

the field, they spared no one; father, mother, brother, sister, pregnant woman, 
nursing infant—all perished under the deadly fire of these vile assassins. More 
than one hundred victims. 

From Cayes 

The rebels are trying to incite the Plainc negroes. They have had some 
success. Last Wednesday they succeeded in burning cane fields near Bourdet. 

Port-au-Prince, February 5 

Deluded by its foolish pretensions ... the intermediate class will always 
attempt to predominate over the race with which it has ties of blood and 
custom in a direction contrary to the will of the colonists who have done 
everything for the colony which in a sense belongs to them. Therefore, no 
more union ... no more pact. The coalition agreement is broken. 

From Jacmel 

Second night attack. The brigands were commanded by a mesaUii from 
Cayes de Jacmel. . . . Under the direction of said Cadet Rufii, these barbari¬ 
ans threw all their dead and wounded into the flames, 130 

Cayes , February 19 

The said Joseph Black, one of the leaders of the brigands, was taken 
alive and broken and burned alive. 137 On the twentieth, about nine o’clock 
the flames rose in Plainc and in the Camp Gerard area. At midnight the 
flames had spread considerably, covering a rather large area. At six o’clock 
we were saddened to learn that a considerable number of plantations were 

From Jacmel 

On February 10, at 5:30 a.m., the brigands who for two months had been 
laying siege to Jacmel attacked it during the night . . . they brought up their 
cannon and placed two batteries just beyond the range of the port's gun. 
There was continuous firing on the fort and harbor installations until ten in 
the morning. Their losses were 130 killed and wounded. 

Cayes\ March 8 

The army facing the rebels consisted of three hundred men of the Pro¬ 
vence regiment, 115 Cayes volunteers, sixty-six from Plaine du Fond, twenty 
from Grigri, thirty from Cavaillon, eleven Americans, twenty-six “paid 
troopers," forty sailors, eighteen cannoneers, sixty armed blacks, 693 men all 
told, 633 of them white. 

Cap, April 5 

On March 23, three thousand one hundred and seventy four infantrymen 


arrived by four Bordeaux vessels and five from other ports, including Pro¬ 
vencal The king had ordered a savings of five mill ton in Court expenses to be 
used in support of his wonderful colony, SainLDcmmgue, At Camp Pagot 
in Jacquczi, 7J4 men were left dead, not to mention the cartloads of dead 
they removed during the night. Their losses were figured at four hundred 
killed and at least six to eight hundred wounded. 

Cayes, March 11 

Names of rebel leaders killed r Joseph Bleck, Narcisse RoUin, Marcombe, 
Jacques Dasque, Revcrseau, Charles Mace, Sixte and Charles Paulin. 

Almost widespread conflagrations, buildings ruined, plantations destroyed, 
fields laid waste—these were the results. Saint-Marc announced new clashes. 
The city was taken and the Patriot army entered triumphantly, putting to the 
sword fourteen hundred men, as many whites as mulattoes, 

Cayes, August 5 

Not for long did we enjoy this apparent lull. The torch invades our areas 
with impunity. Anses, Port-a-Piment, the neighboring Plains and those of this 
City * , . etc., all arc in flames. Blood is again flowing. 

Clearly, this war of the colored people, the mulattoes and free blacks 
does not lack violence either in the West or in the South. ... It mirrors the 
maroons' war, employing the same tactics as the innumerable armed fugitive 
bands. Camped in the woods they descended upon the cities; new leaders 
sprang up as others fell. 

Samedi Smith for example, born in Plaine du Torbec, killed his master 
and took to the mountains. And Janvier, at the thought of whom Baradaires 
Parish trembled. . , . And Gilles Benech, nicknamed “Petit Malice,” bom a 
slave on the Solon Bencch plantation in Chardonnieres who, for liberty, 
chose to make war in the woods. Nicolas Regnier, born and raised in slavery 
would lay down his arms only after the Proclamation of Liberty for all. And 
finally, Goman, already a legend: Goman was a Congo slave on the Perrier 
plantation at Jrois and “a frequent maroon.” He loved display, and the 
women freedom-fighters were his great passion. He “used to wear as many 
as three feathers in his patched-up hat to make himself stand out.” He always 
kept eight saddle horses and as many people to lead them, 'Thus affecting 
to be a general accompanied by his guides.” Some years after the war in the 
South, Goman would again take to the woods, this time with Pyrame Cazal, 
another black group leader, to form a small army using pikes and arrows. 
In 1802, along with Jean Panier and the followers of Gilles Benech and 
Nicolas Regnier, he would again take to the woods in the fight for inde¬ 
pendence. Under Dessalines, who refused him military rank, he began the 

A Chronology of Marronage 353 

long insurrection in Grand Anse that was to last thirteen years. Tracked 
down, Goman chose to throw himself into a ravine rather than be captured. 
Then seventy years old, he died uncompromising and free, leaving behind 
many wives and children and the court of honor with which he had always 
surrounded himself in the Grande Anse forests. 13 ® 

There were other fearless, indomitable leaders camped in the woods, 
inciting the work gangs, ravaging the cities. They were legendary Maroons 
whose names would not attain the glory of the greats in our history. Leading 
their bands, they were, nevertheless, the foundation, the strong arms of the 
fight for liberty without which independence would not have been possible. 
For example, Mavougou, Gingembre Tropfort, Jean Rouge, Adam Duche- 
min, Toby, Bossou, Cande, Lubin Hudicourt, Chavanne, Metcllus, TAmer- 
ique, Sylla* Sans-Souci, Vamalheureux, Noel Prieur, Pierre Fontaine, Joseph 
Dessources, Dcstrade, Labarrc, Dugotier, Bazin, Yagou, Noel Buquct, 
Thomas Duchemin, Sanglaou, Mathieu Fourmi, Henriette Saint-Mare, La- 
brum, Cacapoule, Giles Bambara, 130 And so many others emerging from 
marronage would engage in the battles for liberty and for independence, 
would sacrifice their lives in a war in which from the outset the accepted 
order of the day was "Victory or death!” 

1793—The Maroons Win the Battle Jor Liberty 

The year opened with a Nago slave revolt, an apparent indication that 
an increasing number of bands were composed of rebels of the same nation. 110 

The Cap Army yesterday broke up several camps; one detachment razed the 
Petite Place camp at Dcstouches, a Nago camp; the hail of arrows which fell 
upon our brave defenders did not at ali dampen l heir ardor. 141 

Six days later this other army communique reached Cap. 

The Division of the East (Army of the North) composed of 230 to 250 
citizens marched to attack the brigands from Sainte-Suzanne to Grande Rivi¬ 
ere. The attack on Camp Sec which was under the command of one Sec lasted 
five hours; General Desfourneaux displayed all the bravery of an old French¬ 
man, nine of our brothers lost their lives, eighteen were wounded; that 
scoundrel Sec was supported by the infamous rebel chiefs Titus, Blassou and 
Jean*Francois. 14i On January 31, Dondon was taken from the brigands; on 
the twentieth, they abandoned two large-caliber cannon. . . . Father Del aha ye 
of Dondon was arrested in Saint-Raphaei and with his inamorata was taken 
to Cap prison today! 143 

The Maroon leader Charles See was killed in February. Triumphantly, 
Colonel Desfourneaux made the announcement: 

With pleasure I inform you of the death of the scoundrel Charles Sec, he 


was killed about thirty-five feet from the camp, behind a rock from which he 
attacked us, . , . If I have any satisfaction it is that among them I have 
killed five of their most formidable leaders in this Province. ... I had all 
their ground provisions destroyed, banana trees, maniocs, com and yams 
which will do them more damage than our bullets, 144 

The colonial authority tried to starve the Maroons by destroying their 
crops. Gallows were kept constantly at work, thus feeding Negro charnel 
houses in several parishes. The result was the same. The insurrection con¬ 
tinued. Desertions increased. 

Citizen Vaisse, Grand Boucard resident, advised that all her slaves had 
revolted, 145 and citizen Moreau was selling the remainder of his blacks. 140 

However, after terrible reverses, the war against the Maroons was re¬ 
sumed with seeming success. The colonists took the Platons camp in the 
South and the one at Tannerie between Dondon and Grande Riviere. Biassou 
and Jean-Frangois fell back. Coco-Laroehe was captured and executed. 

These colonial army victories did not discourage the Maroons. What was 
their armed strength? It is known that in the Cap region alone there were 
fourteen thousand Maroon women willing to accept an amnesty then in the 
air. The figure is astonishing but authentic. The Maroons fell back on Sainte- 
Suzanne and Valticres with Biassou and Belair, who dream of Te Deums, of 
a law code and a plan to direct an independent state upon invitation “by the 
various tcaders of the nation.” Their forces again “invested” the Cap en¬ 
virons. They gained ground and nibbled away parish after parish, repulsing 
attacks of the army led by General de Laveaux. Shortly afterward the in¬ 
surgents under Pierrot, increased by ten thousand slaves and workers from 
Cap, aided by the dissensions pitting the Saint-Domingue masters against 
each other, invaded the city and systematically pillaged and burned it. On 6 
July Jean-Fran^ois and Biassou responded negatively to the peace proposals 
of Commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel. Macaya moved into the eastern 
sector, where he was made a brigadier. 

The Maroons took Camp de la Tannerie and attempted to force the 
cordon of the West so as to cut through the barrier separating them from 
the Artibonite rebellion and all liaison with the rebel blacks in the West. 

Enncry was in their hands. Everything was arranged for turning over to them 
Gonatves, Petite Riviere, Verettes, Mirebaiais and Croix des Bouquets, Over¬ 
all freedom was the basis for this plan agreed upon by Biassou, Jean-Fran^ois, 
the two Guiambois, Carreau, Despinville, Jean Pineau and Jarinthe. 147 

Pressed on all sides, at his disposal only eighteen hundred white soldiers 
to oppose the revolt of the blacks in the northern provinces, and worried 
about a final massacre being organized by the Maroons, Commissioner Son¬ 
thonax proclaimed general freedom on 29 August 1793, One month later 

A Chronology of Marronage 355 

this was ratified by Commissioner Polverel in the West and in the South. 
The battle for liberty was won. 

Then began, under the genius of Breda, the battle for independence, 

I am Toussaint-Louverture, you may have heard of me, I want Liberty and 
Equality to reign in Saint-Domingue. I am working to bring this about Join 
me, brothers, and fight with us for the common cause, 

Toussaint stepped on stage. Even if by his extraordinary personality he 
dominated the chiefs he was nothing without the Maroon bands. The whole 
pregnant history, born in the grief of their entrails at first belongs to them. 
In the main, was there anything going on they didn't already know? 

Shortly after the general insurrection, the leaders trafficked in freedom 
and maneuvered to increase their status and their frauds on the backs of 
slaves sold and resold, wholesale and retail. In an objective and well- 
rcsearched study of Saint-Domingue written in a lyric style so rare for the 
genre, Edncr Brutus violently denounced this shameful trading, giving it its 
true place in marronage and pointing up the real substance of color preju¬ 
dice, Brutus bluntly villified Jean-Fran$ois and Biassou and went so far as 
to accuse Toussaint Breda of being unexpectedly tainted. This, without 
awaiting publication of the mostly unedited correspondence of the First of 
the Blacks for a possible explanation and extenuating circumstances in the 
face of apparently irrefutable proof. It is nonetheless true that betrayal there 
was, on a high level. Thus began the snuffing out of the slave’s dreams. It 
was the beginning of the savage gamble that was to shatter the vitality of 
the planters and for so long, unfortunately, that of the peasant! 

If, inded, these were not cruel and contradictory maneuverings in the 
mystery of his breakthrough, Toussaint redeemed himself. He became a 
great moment in the conscience of marronage, as If it were his mission to 
carry on his shoulders alone the organization and evolution of the struggle 
too often overlooked as the work of the elusive, invisible yet ever-present 

When, after the difficult fighting in the first phase of the war against 
Bonaparte’s army, Toussaint and his officers accepted the truce, the Maroons 
alone, with their pikes and machetes, held fast, invincible in the brush. They 
were the last ramparts. 

When Toussaint’s regular forces collapsed, exhausted and dismembered, 
his overall strategy shaken, there remained but the one supreme recourse, 
the Maroon guerrilla with its surprise tactics, its ambushes and its terror. It is 
this that would condition the pursuit of the struggle. 143 Thus, thanks to the 
Maroons alone and to the aggressive methods of marronage, the epic 

After Toussaint’s deportation, Leclerc assigned the local generals the 
task of disarming the irreducible menacing bands and wiping out the rebels. 


Tactic or not, Dessaiines and Christophc ferociously applied themselves* 
often with the cruelty of armed hand-to-hand combat* They cut themselves 
off from the masses, thus dangerously isolating themselves- It seemed then 
that the final struggle would hog down in the inconsistent clutter of the dis¬ 
persed, therefore weakened, bands, when there occurred the miracle of the 
union in the earlier and the newly free. It was the wedding of the slave and 
freedmen of yesterday into the invincible Blood Bloc. 

As is known, Petion renounced his mother Ursula and became Sabes* 14 * 
In alliance with the enemy, he bombarded Crete h Pierrot. In spite of his 
distinguished service, France had decided to massacre, drown, hang, or 
deport the freedmen leaders, still agitating and in full rebellion* In addition 
to the mulatto generals Petion, Rigaud and Boyer, several free black officers 
had accompanied the troop convoy: Lcveiilc, J, B* Belley, Dciva, Vaval, and 
others* Other black officers had joined Leclerc’s debarking troops and with 
them participated in the first phase of the War of Independence* Among 
these were Laplume, Paul Louverture, Seraphin, Patience, Celestin, Paul 
Lafranee, Jcan-Pierre Dumesnil * * * not to mention the Maroon chiefs 
Lamour Derance and Lafortune, or Toussaint’s own son, Isaac, 160 whose 
unexpected desertion was both sad and inexplicable* 

Some of these freedmen leaders, black and mulatto, had seen the scan¬ 
dalous error of their ways* They came together with the Maroons, and, 
united with the rebel bands, they, as many among them had already done, 
entered the lists* For the earlier-liberated black and mulatto freedmen, there 
was no alternative for self-preservation than the road to independence. And 
this road, becoming accessible, could only lead to marronage. These intracta¬ 
ble, indomitable Maroons could not be disciplined by their former owners 
nor led by chiefs not sprung from their own ranks* 

A lucid realist, Alexander Petion understood these imperatives* Of all 
the greats of the Independence, he was the first to be readily elevated 151 by 
the Maroons. Curiously enough, it was largely due to him and to his prodigi¬ 
ous efforts in mass recruitment and pulling in of freedmen, even some 
Maroon leaders, that the army was strengthened and consolidated* It was 
this army that placed itself under the bold authority of Jean Jacques Dessa- 
lines, the only legitimate, acceptable leader. From that point on it would 
always be on the march to the rendezvous of 1 January 1804, at the Place 
d'Armes in Gonai'ves* 

There were certainly a number of pitched battles courageously and bril¬ 
liantly engaged* But, it was with the Maroons and by Maroon tactics—by 
raids, fire, extraordinary marches, by poisoned springs and ambushes, by a 
war of elusive shadows 1 r,2 —th at the finally united people of Saint-Domingue 
marched to their combined liberty and independence. This whole race of 
farmers and warriors went into marronage* 153 Such in its progression is the 
true story of the birth of the Haitian nation. This is the unique, the exclusive 
glory of the Saint-Domingue Maroons, obscure and anonymous forgers of 

A Chronology of Marronage 357 

liberty. . * , Madioti and Ardouin have invoked sordid political interests and 
basic discord with Toussaint Louvcrture to explain the attitude of certain 
freed men leaders who fought on the side of the French in the first phase of 
the War for Independence. It was similar for the position of the black and 
mulatto leaders opposed to Toussaint, who, after his deportation so much 
wished for, required, and facilitated, were actively engaged with Leclcre in 
crushing Maroon resistance. This expository essay seems rather confused, 
based on hypotheses rather than proof. In any case, it was as if the hearts 
beating under the tunics of these heroes were not human and therefore subject 
to errors, weaknesses and the inconsistencies which at times cling to glory 
without diminishing its grandeur and luster. 

As for the confidential letters appearing in the “Roehambeau Papers” 
partially acquired by the Haitian government in a Sotheby, London, sale on 
17 February 195S, and since mysteriously disappeared, there are a number 
of copies and a facsimile of essefttial extracts. For some time now, this has 
been mentioned only in whispers as if it were some secret shame. This be¬ 
havior is at once vain and ridiculous. History cannot in any case accommo¬ 
date itself to these unusual rearrangements of our daily petty actions based 
on gossip. 

We have read and reread these letters, and have no reticence in revealing 
their contents. What do they contain? As in Leclcrc’s correspondence, Ro- 
chambeau and Boudet of the Expeditionary Army claim with a great deal 
of boasting that they were leading Christophe and Dessalines by the nose, 
using them at will for the odious tasks of repression, and that, by means of 
favors, they were able to count on their complete allegiance. We know how 
much credence can be placed on the suspect testimony of officers inclined 
to every base maneuver, who took recourse in corruption and, by cowardice 
and the betrayal of military honor, kidnapped Toussaint-Louverture. 

Besides, what were these allegations and boastings worth when they were 
so quickly, so completely given the lie by events that neither Leclerc, Rocham- 
bcau, or Boudet could prevent? Especially so long as marronage remained 
vital, arms at the ready, to force Destiny and to summon the local leaders 
to the duty which, it is proven, none of them had renounced, despite the 
most dramatic of apparent changes in circumstance, and any reckless inop¬ 
portune and shortsighted settlement of accounts. 

Neither the “Leclerc Letters” nor the “Rochambeau Papers” can tarnish 
the glory of the heroes of our Independence. Much less the mouthings of 
pygmies such as we are, in comparison with the giants of our history, 
whether Toussaint, Dessalines, Petion, Christophe, Capois, Morpas, 154 C!cr- 
veaux, Lamartiniere, Marie-Jeanne, Magny, . . , 

Whence, if not from that same Boudet, conies this admission in a letter 
of 26 December Fructidor (13 September) devoted to Dessalines and taken 
from these same “Rochambeau Papers”: “He is the only man who knows 
how to successfully wage war in the colony, we are only fifth-graders com- 


pared with him. . . And is it not Rochambeau himself who, in a letter to 
Lederc dated 9 October, warned that “Under cover of the confidence ac¬ 
corded him Dessalines conspires in silence . . 

The abscess must be lanced. The famous “Rochambeau Papers” must 
be demystified. For certain destroyers of our household gods used these 
papers for clandestine essays characterized equally by pettiness, thoughtless¬ 
ness, and stupidity, not to mention the appetite of the vulture * . . 

We have celebrated the valor of the leaders who by their great stature 
dominate the history of marronage, while we relegate to the shadows the 
anonymous mass of little people, obscure and without rank. They were, 
however, each day’s collective courage driving the bands and, song in heart, 
rising to the assault for liberty. It was this that Boukman had exhorted in the 
Ceremony of Bois Caiman: 

Coute la Liberte dan eoeur a nous!* 

They especially have the right to figure in the honors list of the victory 
they fashioned with their tears, their sweat, and blood, to present to Liberty 
this hallowed bouquet. For this reason will their names ever be told as in 
some sacred litany. Slave names, simple and gauche. Names in rags and 
tatters. Names stripped bare. Names so brief, so poor, with only monosyl¬ 
lables to designate these giants of our history. And, like some burst of fire¬ 
works celebrating a battle, all those heroes whom we can rediscover shall fill 
the final pages of this volume. 

Thus we will have accorded their memory the homage of respect and 
admiration due this “shadowy people” who were the only light in the long 
colonial night. Thus, their calm courage will again come to life, each day 
nibbling away at liberty and on the smoking ruins of Saint-Domingue, creat¬ 
ing for us the Haitian fatherland. 

This book would have been incomplete and vain without this offering of 
filial piety and without extracting the bitter,